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Full text of "CMH Pub 11-7-1 Three Battles: Arnaville, Altuzzo, And Schmidt"

Three Battles: 

ARNAVILLE, 
ALTUfcZO 

and! 

SCHMIDT 



UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 



Three Battles: 

ARNAVILLE, ALTUZZO, 
AND SCHMIDT 




CENTER Of MILITARY HISTORY 
UNITED STATES ARMY 

Washington, d. c, 1991 



library of Congress Catalog Curd Number: 52-f> ]<>LMi 



First printed lasa— cmh Pub n-7-i 



fbx siivk- bv llic Juipirimenrieru oJ 'Duf unu-nLs. U.S. Government Printing OfUte 
Wasiiingion, D.t:. 20402 



, . . to Those Who Served 



Foreword 



This volume pictures the difficulties of small unit commanders 
and soldiers in executing missions assigned by higher headquarters. 
Such missions are based at best on educated guesses as to the enemy 
situation and probable reaction. Success, failure, confusion, out- 
standing behavior, as pictured here, illustrate battle as it did, and 
often can, take place. The viewpoint of the participants at the time 
is hard to re-create in spite of what is known of the circumstances 
that surrounded the engagement. What now seems to be obvious 
was then obscure. The participants were continually faced with ques- 
tions which can be reduced in number only by thorough training: 
What do I do next? Where shall I fire? Who is now in charge? 
Shall I fire? Will firing expose my position? Shall I wait for 
orders? To us who comfortably read accounts of the engagement 
the answers may seem evident. We must remember that confusion, 
like fog, envelops the whole battlefield, including the enemy. Initia- 
tive, any clear-cut aggressive action, tends to dispel it. 

In battle the terrain is the board on which the game is played. 
The chessmen are the small units of infantry, of armor, and the 
various supporting weapons each w r ith different capabilities, all de- 
signed for the co-ordinated action which makes for victory. No one 
piece is capable of carrying the entire burden. Each must help the 
other. Above all, the human mind must comprehend which, for 
the instant, has the leading role. There is no time out in battle. 
Teams must be prepared to function in spite of shortages in both 
personnel and equipment. They must be practiced and drilled in 
getting and retaining the order necessary to overcome the confusion 
forever present on the battlefield. This is the outstanding lesson of 
these pages. If heeded they will have most beneficial effect on our 
Army. 

We, the victors in this war, can ill afford not to examine our 
training methods continually. Do we drill as we would fight? Do 
we instill in the soldier discipline and a knowledge of how to get order 
out of battle confusion? If not, victory will cost too much. 



Washington, D. G. 
15 November 1951 



ORLANDO WARD 
Maj. Gen., U. S. A. 
Chief of Military History 



v 



The Authors 



Charles B. MacDonald, compiler of this volume and author of 
two of the studies, commanded a rifle company in the 2d Infantry 
Division in World War II and is the author of Company Commander * 
He is now on the staff of this office writing a volume on the U. S. 
Army in Europe. Sidney T. Mathews, author of the third study, 
was a member of the Historical Section, Fifth Army, during the war, 
wrote the study entitled "Santa Maria Infante" published in Small 
Unit Actions* of the series AMERICAN FORCES IN ACTION, 
and is a Ph.D. in History of the Johns Hopkins University. He is 
now on the staff of this office, writing a volume on the U. S. Army 
in Italy. 

Washington, D. C. KENT ROBERTS GREENFIELD 

15 November 1951 General Editor 

* Washington, 1947. 



vi 



Preface 



In World War II historians in uniform followed the U. S. Army's 
combat forces in almost all theaters of operations, their primary duty 
to interview battle participants in order to enrich and complete the 
record of the war. Added to the organizational records of the Army 
units, the combat interviews obtained by these historians produced 
an unprecedented amount of source material. Rich in detail of 
small units in action, it provided an opportunity to show what actu- 
ally happened in battle. 

The volumes of UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 
dealing with the war in the Pacific are rich in such detail. In those 
dealing with the war in the European and Mediterranean theaters, 
the scale of treatment is such that the history can rarely follow the 
action of small units. One of the objects of this volume is to achieve 
a microscopic view of battle in those theaters by focusing on the bat- 
talions, companies, platoons, and squads that fought in the front lines. 

The AMERICAN FORCES IN ACTION* series has already 
presented fourteen volumes which are primarily small unit actions, 
but these are concerned almost exclusively with infantry in battle. 
Another object of this volume is to present actions in which the role 
of other arms and services can also be presented, providing a better 
picture of the interrelation of small parts on the battlefield in as 
great a variety of tactical situations as possible. 

The choice of actions to be included was limited by the kind of 
source material available for the specific purposes of the volume. 
Although interviews and unit records are present in abundance, only 
in a few instances can the small unit level be sustained through an 
entire operation or to a natural conclusion. 

In many respects the actions chosen are representative of scores 
of battles in their respective theaters, for all three are made up of 
failures as well as successes. Out of a combination of actions such 
as these, large-scale victories or defeats are compounded. Squads, 
platoons, companies, battalions, and even regiments and divisions, 

* Published by the Historical Division, War Department Special Staff. 

vii 



experience local reverses as well as successes to decide the over-all 
course of war. 

Each of the three studies presents an operation that constitutes 
but one of many in which the units and individuals described took 
part. Their performance in other engagements may have been more 
brilliant. It should be kept in mind that one action seldom is the 
basis for a military reputation. Further, a number of factors that 
often vitally influence a battle action — some of them unrecognized 
even by the participants — inevitably remain a mystery. The avail- 
ability of materials and the type of objectives dictated the choice of 
actions to be recorded, not the individuals or the units. Their 
assistance in producing information and criticizing the manuscript 
is indicative of a loyal desire that others profit from their experiences. 

While the authors are aware of the vital contributions supply and 
administrative units perform in the long-range scale of victory, their 
story lies in the administrative and logistical histories and in the 
volumes of the technical services of the series, UNITED STATES 
ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. Likewise, the story of command 
decision in higher headquarters lies in the campaign volumes. One 
of the actions, "River Crossing at Arnaville," has already been 
described at a higher level in Hugh M. Cole, The Lorraine Campaign; * 
the two others, "Break-through at Monte Altuzzo" and "Objective: 
Schmidt," will appear in higher-level accounts, minus the detail of 
these presentations, in subsequent volumes of UNITED STATES 
ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. 

Both "Objective: Schmidt" and "River Crossing at Arnaville" 
were written primarily from combat interviews and unit records pre- 
pared by persons other than their author. "Break-through at Monte 
Altuzzo" was written by the historian who obtained the interviews 
and who made a number of trips to retrace the battle on the ground 
with surviving participants. Responsibility for editing the Altuzzo 
study to meet the requirements of this volume, for planning the 
volume, and for selection of studies to be included was mine. 

In preparing this volume, Dr. Mathews and I were assisted im- 
measurably by the expert professional guidance of the members of 
the Office of the Chief of Military History. We wish particularly to 
recognize the contributions of Mr. Joseph R. Friedman, for his highly 
professional services as editor of the volume; of Mr. Wsevolod Aglai- 

* Published by the Historical Division Special Staff, U. S. Army. 

viii 



moff, for his maps and for his counsel, based not only on his knowl- 
edge of military cartography and European terrain but also on his 
experience in battle; of Miss Margaret E. Tackley, for her exhaustive 
research in selection of photographs; of 1st Lt. George L. Frenkel 
and Mr. Britt Bailey, for considerable assistance with German 
materials; of Mrs. Pauline Dodd, for her invaluable work as copy 
editor; and of the following, both in and out of the Office of the Chief 
of Military History, who did so much to make this volume the co- 
operative enterprise that it is: Miss Norma E. Faust, Dr. Alfred 
Goldberg, Lt. Col. John C. Hatlem, Mr. David Jafle, Mrs. Lois 
Riley, Mr. Royce L. Thompson, Mr. Ralph H. Vogel, Lt. Col. 
Charles A. Warner, and Miss Lucy E. Weidman. Additional 
credits to the officers and men who produced the source materials 
are to be found in the footnotes and bibliographical notes. 

Washington, D. C. CHARLES B. MagDONALD 

15 November 1951 



ix 



Contents 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 

Chapter Page 

I. THE GASOLINE DROUGHT AND THE DORNOT 
CROSSING 3 

The Advance Begins 5 

Commitment of the 5th Division 7 

The Terrain and the Forts 12 

Crossing at Dornot 13 

The Assault Begins 17 

The German Reaction 22 

Advance to Fort St. Blaise 23 

Support of the Dornot Bridgehead . 27 

Holding the Dornot Site, 9-10 September 29 

1st and 3d Battalions, 11th Infantry 34 

Withdrawal at Dornot, 10—11 September 35 

II. THE CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE (10-11 SEPTEMBER) . 40 

Battalion Preparations 42 

The Assault Crossing 44 

The 2d Battalion Crossing 50 

Counterattack From Arry 51 

The 3d Battalion Attacks Arry 54 

The 11th Infantry Enters the Arnaville Fight 55 

Counterattacks Against the 10th Infantry, 11 September 59 

Supporting the Bridgehead 61 

III. SMOKE AND BRIDGING OPERATIONS (9-14 SEPTEMBER) 63 

Smoke Operations Begin 65 

Bridging the Moselle 70 

Initial Planning and Operations 72 

Armor Crosses at the Ford 74 

Bridging Efforts Continued 75 

German Counterattacks, 12 September 76 

Plans To Expand the Bridgehead 80 

Reinforcements for the Bridgehead 81 

Supporting the Bridgehead 83 

Bridgebuilding Continues 84 

xi 



Chapter Page 

IV. BUILD-UP AND EXPANSION (13-15 SEPTEMBER) .... 87 

Impasse on 14 September 88 

Attack in the Fog, 15 September 90 

Objective—Hill 396 93 

The Bridgehead Is Secure 95 

ORDER OF BATTLE 96 

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 98 

BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 

I. DEVELOPING THE GOTHIC LINE (10-13 SEPTEMBER) . 103 

The Terrain and the Enemy 104 

The 363d Infantry Attacks 107 

Attack Preparations, 338th Infantry 109 

Confidence in the 338th 112 

Preparations of Company A, 338th l'l 3 

Enemy Fire 117 

Advance to Hills 624 and 782 121 

Fire Fight in the Bowl 123 

Supporting Fires , 125 

Company A at Hill 782 128 

Confused Reports From the 363d 1 30 

The Enemy Situation 131 

II. PEABODY PEAK (14 SEPTEMBER) 133 

Communication Failure 135 

Company A Attacks the Outpost Line 136 

Company B Moves Out 140 

Another Prominent Ridge 1 43 

Fire Fight at the Barbed Wire 148 

LedjoriTs Patrol 149 

2d and 3d Platoons Move Up 151 

First Counterattack 156 

1st Platoon Moves Forward 157 

Machine Guns and Mortars Move Forward 1 60 

Second Counterattack 162 

Third Counterattack 163 

Company B's True Location 163 

Supporting Fires 164 

Plight of the Forward Platoons 165 

Sergeant Lang Goes Down the Hill 166 

Fourth Counterattack 167 

Help From Artillery and Mortars 169 

The Days Action 171 

The Enemy Situation 173 



xii 



Chapter Page 

III. SHELLFIRE AND A FALSE MESSAGE (15 SEPTEMBER) . 176 

Preparations for Attack 176 

Gresham and Corey Move Forward 181 

Fire at Knobs 1 and 2 183 

Flanking Attempt 186 

Misplaced Shellfire 188 

Long-Range Fire and Counterattack 191 

Supporting Platoons on Hill 782 193 

Withdrawal 194 

The Day's Action 197 

The Enemy Situation 200 

IV. ADVANCE TO THE CREST (16 SEPTEMBER) 202 

General Geroiv's Plans for the 338th 203 

The 2d Battalion Attack 205 

1st Battalion Prepares To Attack 205 

Last-Minute Instructions 207 

Capture of the Outpost Line 211 

Fire Fight at Knob 1 214 

American Shellfire 215 

1st Squad at Knob 2 216 

Advance to the Crest 217 

Defensive Arrangements 219 

2d Platoon Follows to Hill 926 219 

1st Platoon's Advance 221 

Advance up the Western Ridge 221 

Bypassed Pockets 222 

The Enemy Situation 223 

V. COUNTERATTACKS (17 SEPTEMBER) 226 

Assault on the Right Bunker 227 

Assault on the Left Bunker 229 

Return to the Bunker 229 

Search for Spoil 232 

Action on the Western Peak 232 

Action at Hill 926 - 234 

Enemy Pockets and the 3d Battalion 234 

Company K Attacks Knob 3 236 

The 3d Battalion Mops Up 238 

Break-Through on the Flanks 239 

ORDER OF BATTLE 242 

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 244 

xiii 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 

Chapter Page 

I. ATTACK ON VOSSENACK (2 NOVEMBER) 251 

The 112th Makes the Main Effort 257 

The 2d Battalion Attacks 259 

Company G on the Left 259 

Company F on the Right 262 

Company E Mops Up 266 

Artillery in the Vossenack Attack 268 

The 1st Battalion Attacks at H Plus 3 Hours 268 

109th and 110th Infantry Regiments Attack 271 

Air Support 272 

The Enemy Situation 274 

Summary Jor 2 November and Night of 2-3 November 274 

II. THE MAIN EFFORT CONTINUES (3 NOVEMBER) ... 276 

The Spearhead Advance of Company K 277 

Company L Also Advances . 281 

Company I Follows in Reserve 282 

Company M Moves to Schmidt 282 

3d Battalion Medics 282 

The Greene Hornets 283 

The 1st Battalion Follows the 3d 283 

1st Battalion Medics 285 

Artillery Support 285 

Vossenack 285 

The Engineers and the Kali Trail 286 

The Night in Schmidt 290 

109th and 110th Infantry Summaries 291 

Air Support 292 

The Enemy Situation 292 

Summary Jor 3 November and Night oj 3-4 November 293 

III. ACTION AT SCHMIDT (4 NOVEMBER) 295 

Tanks Try To Cross the Kail 295 

Action at Schmidt 297 

Struggle With the Main Supply Route 303 

The Battle Jor Kommerscheidt 305 

The Kail Struggle Continues 309 

The Engineers 312 

Command and the Kali Trail 313 

893d Tank Destroyer Battalion Joins the Action 314 

Air Support 315 

109th and 110th Infantry Summaries 315 

The Enemy Situation 317 

Summary Jor 4 November and Night of 4-5 November 319 

xiv 



Chapter Page 

IV. MORE ACTION AT KOMMERSCHEIDT (5 NOVEMBER) . 321 

Tank Destroyers Try for Kommerscheidt 323 

Another Enemy Attack 323 

Events Along the Kail Trail 324 

The Tanks 324 

Action Again in Kommerscheidt 325 

Company B, 112th, Moves Up 326 

The Tank Destroyers 32o 

Command in Kommerscheidt 327 

The Engineers 327 

The Greene Hornets 328 

Tank Supply 328 

Infantry Supply 329 

Tank Destroyer Supply 330 

The Medics 331 

Formation of Task Force R 332 

The Engineers 333 

The Situation in Vossenack 334 

Armor in Vossenack 336 

Artillery Support 338 

109th and 110th Infantry Summaries 339 

Air Support 339 

The Enemy Situation 341 

Summary for 5 November and Night of 5—6 November 342 

V. ACTION AT VOSSENACK (6 NOVEMBER) 344 

Armor in Vossenack . 345 

Engineers in Vossenack 348 

The Situation in Kommerscheidt 348 

Task Force R 349 

Tank Demonstration in Kommerscheidt 350 

The Planned Attack on Schmidt 352 

A New Defense Attempted in Vossenack 352 

Was There a German Attack? 354 

The Armor Builds Up a Line 355 

The Engineers Act as Riflemen 357 

The Command Level 362 

The Night in Vossenack: Armor 363 

The Night in Vossenack: Engineers 363 

Medics and Engineers Along the Kail 366 

Supplies Cross the Kail 368 

Artillery and Air Support 369 

109th and 110th Infantry Summaries 371 

The Enemy Situation 371 

Summary for 6 November and Night of 6—7 November ....... 372 

xv 



Chapter Page 

VI. ACTION AGAIN AT KOMMERSCHEIDT (7 NOVEMBER) . 374 

A New Commander for the 112th 378 

Along the Kail Trail 379 

Company A, 1340th Engineers 379 

Colonel Peterson's Return Trip 380 

Attack To Retake Vossenack 381 

Task Force Davis 386 

The Tank Destroyers Try To Cross the Kail 388 

Armor in Vossenack 388 

Command 389 

Air Support 389 

The Enemy Situation . , 391 

Summary for 7 November and Night of 7-8 November 392 

VII. WITHDRAWAL ACROSS THE KALL (8 NOVEMBER) . . 393 

The Day at the Kommerscheidt Woods Line 394 

Along the Kali Trail 396 

Vossenack 397 

Withdrawal 398 

Medical Evacuation 401 

12th and 110th Infantry Summaries 404 

Artillery and Air Support 404 

The Enemy Situation 405 

Summary for 8 November and Night of 8-9 November 406 

VIII. CONCLUSION (9-20 NOVEMBER) 407 

Evacuation 409 

Summary of Closing Action 413 

The Enemy Situation 414 

Relief of the 28th Division 414 

ORDER OF BATTLE 418 

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 420 

GLOSSARY 423 

BASIC MILITARY MAP SYMBOLS 427 

INDEX 431 

xvi 



Maps 



No. Page 

1. Dornot Bridgehead, 8 September 1944 24 

2. Crossing at Arnaville, 10 September 1944 45 

3. Arnaville Bridgehead, 11 September 1944 58 

4. Smoke Generator Operations, 10-15 September 1944 64 

5. Bridging the Moselle, 11-14 September 1944 71 

6. German Counterattack, 12 September 1944 78 

7. Expanding the Bridgehead, Attack of 15 September 1944 .... 91 

8. Advance Toward Mt. Altuzzo, Company A, 338th Infantry, 13 

September 1944 116 

9. Artillery and Air Support Area, 13-17 September 1944 126 

10. 338th Infantry Plan of Attack, 14 September 1944 133 

11. 1st Battalion Attack, 14 September 1944 137 

12. "Peabody Peak," Company B on Western Ridge, 14 September 1944 152 

13. Advance to Knob 2 and First German Counterattack, Morning, 

15 September 1944 180 

14. Knob 2, Situation Before Second German Counterattack, Afternoon, 

15 September 192 

15. Plan of Attack, 16-17 September 1944 205 

16. Capture of Mt. Altuzzo, 16-17 September 1944 212 

17. Assault on the Bunkers, Morning, 17 September 1944 226 

18. Situation on Mt. Altuzzo, Morning, 17 September 231 

19. Company K Attack, Afternoon, 17 September 1944 237 

20. 28th Division Front, Evening, 2 November 1944 270 

21. Drive on Schmidt, 3 November 1944 278 

22. The Kali Trail 287 

23. 3d Battalion, 112th Infantry, Night 3/4 November 290 

24. Tanks on the Kali Trail, 4 November 1944 296 

25. The Switchback 312 

26. Intervention of German Reserves, 4 November 1944 316 

27. Situation at Dawn, 6 November 1944 340 

28. Company C, 1340th Engrs, at the Kali Bridge, Night 6/7 November 

1944 367 

29. 28th Division Front, Dawn, 7 November 1944 370 

30. 28th Division Front, Dawn, 8 November 1944 390 

31- 28th Division Front, Dawn, 9 November 1944 402 

32. Along the Kail Trail, 9 November 1944 408 

33. Plan for Closing Action, 10 November 1944 412 

xvii 



Maps J-XI are in accompanying map envelope 

Kb. 

I. XX Corps, Situation, Noon, 6 September 1944 
II. Reaching the Moselle South of Metz, 6-7 September 1944 

III. Allied Front in Italy, 12 September 1944 

IV. Situation in Mt. Altuzzo Area, 0600, 13 September 1944 
V. The Aachen Front, 1 November 1944 

VI. 28th Division Objectives, 2 November 1944 
VII. Attack on Vossenack — Jump-Off, 2 November 1944 
VIII. Attack on Vossenack — Completion, 2 November 1944 
IX. German Counterattack on Schmidt, 4 November 1944 
X. Defense of Kommerscheidt, 4 November 1944 
XI. Fight for Vossenack, 6-7 November 1944 

Illustrations 

Page 

Dornot Bridgehead Site on the Moselle 10 

Congestion in Dornot 15 

Approaching the Moselle Under Enemy Fire 18 

River Crossing Near Dornot 19 

Infantryman at Footbridge Over Railroad 33 

Any 43 

Objectives of the 2d Battalion 48 

Truck-Mounted Smoke Generator in Operation 66 

Arnaville Crossing Site 68 

Double Treadway Span Across the Moselle Canal 73 

Treadway Bridge at River Site 2 82 

Heavy Ponton Bridge Across Moselle 85 

The Battleground 104 

Infantrymen in Full Field Equipment 108 

Relaxed Foot Soldier 114 

Monte Altuzzo Area 118 

Infantry Approach Over Open Field. 120 

Howitzer and Tanks Moving Forward 127 

81-nim. Mortars in Position 134 

Jagged Crest of Western Ridge 144 

Camouflaged Log Bunker 145 

German Trench and Observation Post 161 

Peabody Peak 172 

Command Post at Paretaio Farmhouse 177 

Taking a Break 182 

Camouflaged Tank Destroyers (M-18) Moving Up 199 

Painting of Monte Altuzzo Area 202 

xviii 



Page 

Enemy Casualties 209 

Artillery-Shelled Area 218 

German Materiel 235 

Break-Through 241 

The Schwammenauel Dam 256 

Vossenack 260 

Objective: Pillboxes 273 

Huertgen Forest 280 

Kail Trail Supply Route 298, 299 

German Prisoners of War 302 

Tank Destroyers M-10 322 

Immobilized Armor 351 

Corduroy Road 358 

Remains of Church at Vossenack 383 

Supporting Fire 395 

Cargo Carrier M-29 (Weasel) 405 

Evacuation of Wounded 410 



All illustrations are from the files of the Department of Defense. The photo- 
graph on p. 202 is from the Department of the Army, Collection of Combat 
Paintings, World War II. 



xix 



RIVER CROSSING AT 
ARNAVILLE 




the story of the 10th and 
11th Infantry Regiments, 
5th Infantry Division, and 
Combat Command B, 7th 
Armored Division, in cross- 
ings of the Moselle River at 
Dornot and Arnaville, 
France. 



by Charles B. MacDonald 



CHAPTER I 



The Gasoline Drought and the 
Dornot Crossing 



To the American soldier in Europe in 
1944 the historic Lorraine city of Metz 
was to become known, after the complex 
series of forts and other prepared posi- 
tions on its outskirts, as "Fortress Metz." 
The first test in the long combat lesson 
which was to give the city its name came 
in early September with crossings of the 
Moselle River south of Metz. 1 

By 1 September the main force of the 
Third United States Army's XX Corps, 
after a spectacular August drive across 
France, had run out of gasoline at Ver- 
dun. Reconnaissance units were sent as 
far east as the Moselle River, last major 
water barrier before Metz. 2 The opti- 
mistic reports they brought back of a 
panic-stricken enemy only deepened the 
frustration of the paralyzed units waiting 
for gasoline. Actually, during these 
early days of September such optimism 
was unfounded; even on 1 September, 
the Germans had units going into position 

1 For the story of the Metz battle, events preceding 
and following, and a higher-level account of this 
operation, see Hugh M. Cole, The Lorraine Campaign 
(Washington, 19501. This volume, a part of the 
series, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD 
WAR II, has been used extensively in the prepara- 
tion of this study. 

2 Contrary to a belief prevalent among troops of 
XX Corps, no American reconnaissance units were 
able at this time to penetrate any portion of Metz 
east of the Moselle. 



to defend Metz, 3 and by 4 September 
enemy resistance against American recon- 
naissance units perceptibly stiffened. 

Able to do little during this period but 
commit ambitious future plans to paper 
and make a sterile record of the optimistic 
messages radioed in by the cavalry recon- 
naissance units, the XX Corps waited 
and hoped that gasoline soon would 
arrive. By the afternoon of 3 September 
enough gasoline was on hand to promise 
an easing of the situation, and late in the 
evening of 5 September the XX Corps 
commander, Maj. Gen. Walton H. 
Walker, returned from Third Army head- 
quarters with the long-awaited word to 
resume the offensive. 

Early the next morning, General 
Walker ordered that Field Order 10, 4 
the most ambitious and far-reaching of 
various plans considered during the wait- 
ing period, be put into effect that after- 
noon, 6 September, at 1400. 5 It directed 
•seizure of crossings on the Sarre River, 
some thirty miles east of the Moselle, and, 

3 MS#B-042 (Krause). Generalleutnant Wal- 
ther Krause commanded Division Number 462, charged 
specifically with the defense of Metz. This division, 
an organizational makeshift, had assumed tactical 
control over all units in the area. 

4 XX Corps G-3 Jnl and File, Sep 44. 

5 All clock time given is that officially designated by 
the Allies; British Double Summer Time was used 
prior to 17 September. 



4 



THREE BATTLES 



upon army order, continuation of the 
advance to Mainz on the Rhine. (Map 
7)| * The 7th Armored Division, under 
command of Maj. Gen. Lindsay McD. 
Silvester, was ordered to cross the Moselle 
in advance of the infantry, apparently in 
the hope that the armor might still find 
a bridge intact. If Metz itself did not 
fall "like a ripe plum," the armor was to 
bypass it and strike straight for the Sarre 
River and its bridges. The two cities 
that formed the anchor positions for the 
German line of resistance in front of XX 
Corps — Metz and its northern neighbor, 
Thionville — were labeled intermediate 
objectives and assigned to the 5th and 
90th Infantry Divisions, respectively. 

Detailed orders for both the armor and 
the infantry awaited seizure of a Moselle 
bridgehead and more intelligence on the 
enemy and the terrain. XX Corps knew 
that the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division 
"Goetz von Berlichingeri" 6 had troops in the 
zone of advance and believed that ele- 
ments of two panzer divisions might also 
be encountered. The corps G-2 also 
believed that two other panzer grenadier 
divisions, the 3d and 15th, might possibly 
be committed. The Metz fortifications 
themselves provided a big question mark. 
Since Roman times, when Metz became 
a hub for roads in that sector, the city had 
been heavily fortified. The present sys- 
tem was built by the Germans between 
the Franco-Prussian War and World War 
I and was known to have undergone some 
changes by French engineers in 1939. 
What changes the Germans had made 
since capturing the forts in 1940 was not 
known. In general, the XX Corps staff 



* All maps numbered in Roman are placed in 
inverse order inside the back cover. 

* Hereafter referred to as 17th SS Pander Grenadier 
Division, 



believed the fortified system outmoded, 
and both the Third Army and XX Corps 
tended to assume that the Germans would 
at most fight a delaying action at the 
Moselle and that the main enemy stand 
would be made east of the Sarre River 
behind the Siegfried Line. Apparently 
on this assumption, virtually no informa- 
tion on the Metz fortifications was trans- 
mitted to lower units, not even to regi- 
ments. 7 

Actually, Hitler and his military ad- 
visers had no intention of permitting a 
withdrawal from the Metz-Thionville 
area; not even so much as retreat behind 
the Moselle was contemplated, because 
the Metz fortifications extended west as 
well as east of the river. On 4 Septem- 
ber, OB WEST, the German supreme 
command in the west, estimated that 
troops available for defense of the sector 
were equivalent to four and one-half 
divisions. 5 The defense of Metz itself 
was charged to a miscellany of Officer 
Candidate School and Noncommissioned 
Officer School troops from the city's mili- 
tary schools, fortress troops, and phys- 
ically unfit, all brigaded together under 
Division Number 462. Although this "di- 
vision" was an organizational makeshift 
commanded by the faculty and adminis- 
trative personnel of the Metz military 
schools, most of the student troops had 
been picked for further training as officers 
and noncommissioned officers after hav- 
ing demonstrated superior abilities in the 

7 XX Corps G-2 Jnl and File, Sep 44; TUSA G-2 
Periodic Rpt, 3 and 8 Sep 44; Interv with Brig Gen 
John B. Thompson (Ret) (formerly comdr, CCB, 7th 
Armd Div), 6 Apr 50; Interv with Maj W. W. Morse 
(formerly S-2, 11th Inf), 19 Apr 50. Unless other- 
wise indicated, all interviews were conducted by the 
author in Washington, D. C. 

8 Sit Rpt, 4 Sep 44, found in Heeresgruppe B, la, 
LagebeurleHungen (Army Group B, G-3, Estimates of 
the Situation), 1944. 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



5 



field and were among the elite of the 
German Army. Most of these officers 
and men had used the Metz vicinity for 
school maneuvers and knew the terrain 
thoroughly. 

West of the river, units of the 17th SS 
Panzer Grenadier Division had been acting 
as a covering force. Although on 2 Sep- 
tember the 17th SS had begun to move 
to reserve south of Metz for refitting and 
the 462d had taken over the western secur- 
ity mission, many 17th SS troops were still 
in the line when the XX Corps attack 
was launched. The two armored divi- 
sions which American intelligence had 
predicted might be encountered were 
actually no longer in the Metz sector. 9 

The American estimate that the Metz 
forts were outmoded was basically cor- 
rect, even though the inherent strength of 
individual fortifications might be ob- 
scured by such a generality. While the 
French had concentrated primarily on 
the Maginot Line, farther to the east, the 
Germans after 1940 had given priority to 
fortifying the Channel coast. Many of 
the forts even lacked usable guns, ammu- 
nition, and fire control apparatus, al- 
though those forts subsequently encoun- 
tered by the southern units of XX Corps 



» MSS § B-042 (Krause) and § B-732 (Major Kurt 
Hold, formerly A&st G-3, First Army). Division Number 
462 consisted of two infantry training and replacement 
battalions, one machine gun training and replace- 
ment company, one artillery training and replacement 
battalion, one engineer training and replacement 
battalion, and the units subordinated to the division 
for the defense of Metz: the Metz Officer Candidate 
School, formed into a regiment; the NCO school of 
Wehrkreis XII, formed into a regiment; the SS Signal 
School Metz, formed into a battalion of four compan- 
ies; Security Regiment JO/0; one artillery replacement 
battery; several light Flak batteries and one heavy 
Flak battalion of the Metz antiaircraft defense; and 
a Luftwaffe signal battalion. MSS § B-042 (Krause) 
and § B-222 (General der Panzertruppen Otto von 
Knobelsdorff, formerly CG, First Army). 



were in most cases manned and ade- 
quately armed. Over-all consideration 
might label the fortified system as of 
World War I vintage, but it would be 
difficult to convince the individual Amer- 
ican soldier who faced the forts in subse- 
quent days that "Fortress Metz" could 
have conceivably been made more for- 
midable than it actually was. 

The Moselle River itself was a difficult 
military obstacle. In the area just south 
of Metz the river averaged approximately 
a hundred yards in width and six to eight 
feet in depth with a rate of flow con- 
siderably greater than that of other rivers 
in this part of France. The banks of the 
river south of Metz were flat and often 
marshy. Before emerging nearer to Metz 
into a broad flood plain sometimes reach- 
ing a width of four to five miles, the river 
traversed a deep, relatively narrow valley 
flanked on east and west by steep, com- 
manding hills. With the advent of the 
rainy season, the river could be expected 
to become torrential. 

The Advance Begins 

As the gasoline drought gradually 
ended, XX Corps began to assemble its 
forces east of Verdun. The main effort 
to reach the Moselle and thence the Sarre 
was to begin at 1400 on 6 September with 
two parallel columns of the 7th Armored 
Division pushing eastward to take ad- 
vantage of any Moselle crossing site that 
might be found. First a strong combat 
reconnaissance force from the 7th Ar- 
mored, under Lt. Col. Vincent L. Boylan, 
set out at 0300 on the morning of the 6th 
to reinforce the cavalry units in advance 
of the main armored columns. Encoun- 
tering little resistance initially, the force 
met stiffening opposition as the morning 



6 



THREE BATTLES 



wore on. About noon it struck a strong 
outpost line along the Fleville-Abbeville- 
Mars-la-Tour road. Meanwhile, the 
cavalry units had reached points along 
the river both south and north of Metz 
and, although beaten back, had deter- 
mined definitely that no bridges remained. 

Starting out at 1400, the 7th Armored 
Division moved on an axis along the main 
Verdun-Metz highway, deploying Com- 
bat Command A in two parallel columns 
on the left, Combat Command B in the 
same manner on the right, and Combat 
Command R in the rear of CCB. At 
first resistance was negligible; as the ad- 
vance continued CCA became embroiled 
in a stiff fight near Ste. Marie-aux-Chenes 
which continued through the night and 
prevented CCA from reaching the Mo- 
selle until the next morning. 

Meanwhile, to the south, CCB, under 
the command of Brig. Gen. John B. 
Thompson, had also been advancing in 
a two-column formation. On the north 
was Force I, led by Lt. Col. James G. 
Dubuisson. 10 Originally the main com- 
ponent of this force was to have been the 
23d Armored Infantry Battalion (less 
Company B) and was to have been under 
the command of Lt. Col. Leslie Allison, 
the armored infantry commander; but 
shortage of gasoline had necessitated that 
the armored infantry and Company B 
(less one platoon), 33d Armored Engineer 
Battalion, remain behind, to catch up 
with the column whenever gasoline be- 
came available. The force under Colo- 
nel Dubuisson ran into its first serious 



10 Force I consisted of the following: Co A, 31st 
Tk Bn (M); 434th Armd FA Bn (less Btry C); 2d 
Plat, Co B, 814th TD Bn (SP); CCB Hq, atchd trps, 
and tns. Force I was later joined by the 23d Armd 
Inf Bn (less Co B) and Co B (less one plat), 33d 
Armd Engr Bn. See CCB, 7th Armd Div, AAR, 
Sep 44. 



opposition between Rezonville and Gra- 
velotte in late afternoon and was here 
overtaken by its infantry and engineers. 
The CCB commander, General Thomp- 
son, was with this northern column and 
set up his command post just south of 
Rezonville. 

On the south was Force II, led by Lt. 
CoJ. Robert C. Erlenbusch. 11 It passed 
through elements of the combat recon- 
naissance force at Buxieres, east of Cham- 
bley, and in late afternoon approached 
the village of Gorze, which blocked en- 
trance to a narrow defi le leading to the 
Moselle at Noveant. {Map II) Here 



Force II was stopped by mines and anti- 
tank fire; but Company B, 23d Armored 
Infantry Battalion, was directed to bypass 
the town in an effort to reach the river 
and make a crossing before daylight. 
Although the company did succeed in 
reaching a canal which closely paralleled 
the river, as day broke on 7 September 
the Germans at Noveant and Arnaville, 
just south of Noveant, discovered the 
Americans in between them and satu- 
rated the area with fire, causing heavy 
casualties. The infantry finally were 
withdrawn under cover of fire from tanks 
and mortars. 

Nevertheless, elements of CCB did 
succeed in reaching the Moselle during 
the night. In the left column (Force I), 
where the 23d Armored Infantry Battal- 
ion (-) had joined the fire fight west of 
Gravelotte, the newly arrived unit was 
ordered to push alone to the river. Uti- 
lizing a road through the Bois des Ognons 
and the Bois des Chevaux in order to 



11 Force II consisted of the following: 31st Tk Bn 
(M) (less Cos A and D); Co B, 23d Armd Inf Bn; 1st 
Plat, Co B, 33d Armd Engr Bn; Btry C, 434th Armd 
FA Bn; 3d Plat, Co B, 814th TD Bn. See CCB, 7th 
Armd Div, AAR, Sep 44. 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



7 



avoid the narrow Gravelotte-Ars-sur- 
Moselle defile, which was covered by 
enemy defenses, the battalion fought its 
way under the protection of darkness to 
reach at 0400 the little village of Dornot, 
some 300 yards from the river. At day- 
light the Germans on both sides of the 
river opened up with small arms and 
mortar fire, and the guns of Fort Driant, 
on the heights southwest of Ars-sur- 
Moselle, west of the river, poured in 
deadly shellfire. To ease its situation, 
the battalion cleared a little cluster of 
houses known as le Chene, on the river 
just north of Dornot, from which the fire 
was particularly heavy. This success 
was exploited by sending in Company B, 
23d Armored Infantry Battalion, from 
Force II and the remainder of Force I, 
including Company A, 31st Tank Battal- 
ion (Medium), to assist the armored in- 
fantry battalion. And none too soon, 
for the enemy began to launch numerous 
counterattacks, the most severe of which 
originated at Ars-sur-Moselle. 

What the American armor had done 
was to break through, at a weakly held 
point and in darkness, the defense line 
of a German "bridgehead" enclosing 
those Metz forts situated west of the 
Moselle, a line that the Germans were 
determined to hold. The German line 
in this area ran generally from Noveant 
to Gorze and north to Rezonville. The 
American success in breaking through 
these defenses had been surprisingly swift, 
necessitating formation of a second line 
running generally from Ancy-sur-Moselle, 
north of le Chene, to Gravelotte. The 
violent German reaction was apparently 
based in part, at least, on fear that this 
second line would be turned before it 
could be adequately manned. 12 

12 MS § B-042 (Krause) and accompanying sketch. 



While holding against these enemy 
counterattacks, the 23d Armored Infan- 
try Battalion utilized its three available 
assault boats in the afternoon of 7 Sep- 
tember in an attempt to put a patrol 
across the Moselle. Direct machine gun 
fire from the east bank destroyed two of 
the boats and killed most of the men, 
driving the patrol back. 

In the meantime, to the north, CCA 
had succeeded during the morning of 7 
September in reaching the Moselle north 
of Metz and was taking up positions in 
the vicinity of Talange in anticipation of 
a later crossing of the river. Here CCA 
remained, under constant enemy shelling, 
until 15 September, when relieved by 
elements of the 90th Infantry Division. 

At Dornot, in order to ease pressure on 
CCB and eliminate General Thompson's 
concern about his north flank, CCR was 
committed to clear the heights north of 
the Gravelotte-Ars-sur-Moselle defile, 
open the defile, and take Ars-sur-Moselle, 
the source of the counterattacks against 
Dornot. The reserve command had 
scarcely gained enemy contact when it 
was halted; corps had decided that CCR 
remain in corps reserve and be passed 
through by the 5th Infantry Division. 13 

Commitment of the 5th Division 

On 6 September the 5th Infantry Di- 
vision had been ordered to "pin onto'' 

13 As found in 7th Armored Division and CCB 
records, this period of 7th Armored Division opera- 
tions is confusing. More valuable are letters from 
survivors to the Historical Division and interviews by 
the author. See XX Corps, and CCB, CCA, CCR, 
7th Armd Div, AAR's and Unit Jnls, Sep 44; Interv 
with Thompson. See also Ltrs to Hist Div from the 
following: Gen Walker, 8 Oct 47; Gen Thompson, 
1 7 Feb 47, and I, 6, 7, and 22 Mar 50; Lt Col C. E. 
Leydecker (formerly CofS, 7th Armd Div), 29 Jul 
47; and Col Erlenbusch, 9 Apr 48. 



8 



THREE BATTLES 



the tail of the 7th Armored Division and 
be prepared to fight for a bridgehead 
across the Moselle in the event that the 
armored attack should fail. Attached to 
the division were the 818th Tank De- 
stroyer Battalion (Self-Propelled), the 
735th Tank Battalion (Medium), the 
449th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic 
Weapons Battalion, Troop C of the 3d 
Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, and 
the 84th Chemical (Smoke Generator) 
Company. (The chemical company did 
not arrive in the area until several days 
later.) In support was the 1103d Engi- 
neer Combat Group. On the left flank 
of the 5th Division was the 90th Infantry 
Division driving northeast toward Thion- 
ville; on the right, also driving toward 
the Moselle River, was the 80th Infantry 
Division of XII Corps. 

The 5th Infantry Division had received 
its battlefield indoctrination in the Nor- 
mandy hedgerows beginning in July 1 944, 
and after the St. L6 breakout had par- 
ticipated in the spectacular Third Army 
drive across France. By the time of its 
arrival in the Metz vicinity, the 5th had 
already established a reputation for river 
crossings: the Maine, Essonne, Loing, 
Seine, Yonne, Marne, and Meuse. The 
7th Armored, its companion in the im- 
pending Moselle crossing, had also re- 
ceived its battle indoctrination in the 
closing days of the Normandy battles and 
had also participated in XX Corps' drive 
across France. 

In conformance with the orders to 
follow the 7th Armored Division, the 5th 
Division commander, Maj. Gen. S. 
LeRoy Irwin, directed that the 2d Infan- 
try follow CCA on the north, the 11th 
Infantry follow CCB on the south, and 
the 10th Infantry remain in division 
reserve. General Irwin was concerned 



as to whether his division was to establish 
its own bridgehead on the corps' right or 
to pass through the elements of the 7th 
Armored already engaged, but his two 
leading combat teams had alreadyjumped 
off and made enemy contact on 7 Sep- 
tember before he was able to get a definite 
decision from XX Corps. 

Accompanied by its combat team ele- 
ments, the 2d Infantry was to attack 
Metz directly from the west while the 
11th Infantry was to secure high ground 
west of the Moselle south of Metz and be 
prepared to establish a bridgehead. At 
0830 on 7 September the 2d Infantry 
launched its frontal attack and three 
hours later came up against a well-organ- 
ized German defense line between Aman- 
villers and Verneville. Losses were 
heavy, and here the 2d Infantry was 
checked in the first of a series of fruitless 
assaults against the western outworks of 
the Metz position, assaults which con- 
tinued until 15 September when the 
regiment was relieved by elements of the 
90th Division. 

In the south column the 11th Regi- 
mental Combat Team consisted of its 
normal combat team elements: the 11th 
Infantry; the 19th Field Artillery Battal- 
ion (105-mm. Howitzer); Company C, 
818th Tank Destroyer Battalion; Com- 
pany C, 735th Tank Battalion; Collecting 
Company C, 5th Medical Battalion; and 
Company C, 7th Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion. A reconnaissance platoon was 
attached from the 818th Tank Destroyer 
Battalion. Serving as the nucleus of the 
advance guard was the 3d Battalion, 1 1th 
Infantry. The combat team, under Col. 
Charles W. Yuill, 11th Infantry com- 
mander, was to move by trucks at 0800, 
7 September, to the vicinity of Buxieres 
and to proceed from there on foot. 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



9 



After detrucking, advance elements of 
the 11th Combat Team were meeting 
slight resistance from German infantry 
who had not been cleared in the armored 
advance when word finally reached 
General Irwin about noon on 7 Septem- 
ber that the 5th Division was to pass 
through the armor and establish a bridge- 
head. By this time the 11th Infantry 
was deployed and advancing with two 
battalions forward in widely separated 
columns, fighting to reach the Moselle. 
The regimental commander, Colonel 
Yuill, had directed his 3d Battalion on 
the left to reach the river in the vicinity 
of Dornot, north of Noveant, and his 1 st 
Battalion to capture Arnaville, south of 
Noveant. His intention was to cross the 
Moselle with his 2d Battalion either at 
Noveant or just north of Arnaville in 
order to avoid suspected enemy fortifica- 
tions north of Dornot. As night ap- 
proached, the 11th Infantry toiled slowly 
toward the high ground overlooking the 
river. 

During the afternoon of 7 September, 
the attempt by the 23d Armored Infantry 
Battalion to put a patrol across the river 
at Dornot had given rise to a belief that 
the armored battalion had already gained 
a toehold across the Moselle. About 
1800, XX Corps told General Irwin to 
cross the Moselle on the following morn- 
ing and use the 23d Armored Infantry 
Battalion to augment his own infantry. 
The crossing was to be made at Dornot. 

By midnight, 7 September, the 1st and 
3d Battalions, 1 1th Infantry, had reached 
their objectives on the high ground be- 
tween Arnaville and Dornot. Although 
the order to cross at Dornot had been 
protested by Colonel Yuill, the 2d Bat- 
talion, 11th Infantry, had been preparing 
for the assault since nightfall. The 1st 



Battalion, 11th Infantry, under Maj. 
Homer C. Ledbetter, was being virtually 
ignored by the enemy at Arnaville, an 
indication that the latter offered a more 
likely crossing spot than did Dornot, 
where enemy reaction continued to be 
violent. This was apparently overruled 
by higher headquarters in view of the 
concentration of infantry and armor in 
the vicinity of Dornot. But on the 
ground there was little co-ordination be- 
tween this infantry and armor. The 3d 
Battalion, 11th Infantry, first 5th Division 
unit to reach the Moselle, was as sur- 
prised upon its arrival at Dornot to find 
CCB as CCB was to see 5th Division 
troops. Neither had any idea of the 
other's presence or impending arrival. 

Nevertheless, the order to cross at 
Dornot was sustained, and Colonel Yuill 
told his 2d Battalion to make the crossing 
before daylight, 8 September. Not long 
before, the 2d Battalion had detrucked 
at Buxieres; during late afternoon its 
Company E had been committed to clean 
out enemy road blocks in Gorze. Now 
the battalion was moving slowly on foot 
toward Dornot. Its troops, if they at- 
tacked before daylight, would have to 
do so without daylight reconnaissance 
and with maps of no larger scale than 
1:100,000.^ 

'* The 5th Div story has been reconstructed from 
the following: 2d Lt F. M. Luddcn, Combat Interv 
38, Sep 44, including a valuable preliminary narra- 
tive, Moselle River Crossing at Arnaville, 8 Sep 44-24 
Sep 44 (hereafter cited as Moselle River Crossing). 
(All combat interviews on the Moselle crossings arc 
by the 3d Information and Historical Service and 
were conducted in September 44.) See XX Corps, 
5th Inf Div, 1 103d Engr (C) Gp, 10th Inf and 1 1th 
Inf, AAR's and Unit Jnls, Sep 44; Pass in Review — the 
Fifth Infantry Division in ETO (Atlanta, 1946) (here- 
after cited as Fifth Infantry Division); History of the 
Eleventh United States Infantry Regiment (Baton Rouge, 
1947) (hereafter cited as Eleventh Infantry); History of 
Tenth Infantry Regiment United States Army (Harrisburg, 




DORNOT BRIDGEHEAD SITE ON THE MOSELLE. Road in foreground 
parallel to railroad track leads to Ars-sur-Moselle on left and to Noveant on right. Assault 



Fori Vitnmv 




Jorces of the 5th Infantry Division crossed the Moselle River from top point of lagoon in center 
foreground. 



12 



THREE BATTLES 



The Terrain and the Forts 

Dornot, the village that was to be the 
base for the projected assault crossing of 
the Moselle, was picturesquely situated 
on the sharply sloping sides of steep west- 
bank hills. Its main road led into the 
town from the west and down a narrow 
main street to a junction with a north- 
south highway running generally parallel 
to the river. Beyond the crest of the 
west-bank hills, the Dornot road and all 
of the town itself were under direct ob- 
servation from dominant east-bank hills 
which began to rise a few hundred yards 
beyond the river. Atop two of the peaks 
of the first range of east-bank hills oppo- 
site Dornot perched Fort St. Blaise and 
Fort Sommy, known as the Verdun 
Group, embedded and camouflaged so 
as to be nearly invisible from the west 
bank. Although the forts were shown 
on the small-scale maps with which the 
assault troops were forced to work, hardly 
anything was known of their size or 
complexity. 

In this section of the Moselle Valley a 
broad flood plain that stretched south 
from Metz began to narrow, but east of 
the river there was still a stretch of ap- 
proximately 400 yards of flatland almost 
devoid of cover before the ascent to the 
hills began. Along it ran the broad 
Metz-Pont-a-Mousson highway, passing 
through Jouy-aux-Arches, a village one 



1946) (hereafter cited as Tenth Infantry); Third United 
States Army After Action Report — 1 Aug 44-9 May 
45 (hereafter cited as TUSA AAR). See also Intervs 
with the following: Irwin, 28 Mar and 10 Apr 50; 
Yuill, 17 Apr 50; Maj Cornelius W. Coghill, Jr. 
(formerly S-3, 1 1th Inf), 19 Apr 50; Lt Col Kelley B. 
Lemmon, Jr., 12 Jul 50; Lemmon and Yuill, 13 Jul 
50; Thompson; Morse. Ltr, Lt Col William H. 
Birdsong (formerly CO, 3d Bn, 11th Inf) to Hist 
Div, 27 Mar 50. 



mile to the north whose name derived 
from ancient Roman aqueducts still in 
existence, and Corny, a village one mile 
to the south of the projected crossing site. 
The flat stretch of flood land on the west 
bank was smaller, only about 200 yards 
wide between the west-bank highway 
and the river. Here some cover was 
provided by a railroad embankment 
which ran generally parallel to the high- 
way and the river. Slightly to the north- 
east of Dornot, between the railroad and 
the river, were a small lagoon and across 
from it on the east bank a small irregular- 
shaped patch of woods on flat ground 
between the river and the Metz highway. 
On the west bank, approximately one- 
half mile north of Dornot stood the cluster 
of houses known as le Chene, which had 
been cleared the day before by the 23d 
Armored Infantry Battalion. Just north 
of le Chene lay the village of Ancy-sur- 
Moselle. Approximately one and one- 
half miles south of Dornot on the west 
bank and southwest of Corny was the 
larger village of Noveant. 

Besides the two forts of St. Blaise and 
Sommy, the elaborate west-bank fortifi- 
cation, Fort Driant, with a connecting 
southern reinforcement, the Moselle Bat- 
tery, provided the strongest opposition 
to a crossing of the Moselle in this sector. 
Built by the Germans between the wars 
of 1870 and 1914, Fort Driant had been 
designed primarily to defend the south- 
western approaches to Metz, but it was 
sited so that its batteries dominated the 
Moselle Valley as well. Emplaced on 
the highest west-bank terrain feature in 
the vicinity, Fort Driant had already 
illustrated the effect of its batteries to the 
attacking American troops. Just north 
of Fort Driant across the Ars-sur-Moselle- 
Gravelotte defile stood another fortifica- 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



13 



tion, Fort Marival, whose guns could fire 
on the Dornot area. Farther to the 
north and almost due east of Gravelotte 
was the formidable Fort Jeanne d'Arc, 
from which fire might also reach the 
Dornot vicinity. 

Accordingly, the urgency of exploiting 
German disorganization and reaching 
the Sarre River in effect impelled the 
Americans to attempt a crossing of the 
Moselle against great odds. Colonel 
Yuill and his men were aware that Forts 
St. Blaise and Sommy existed, but knew 
little of their capabilities. They were 
completely in the dark about the very 
existence of Forts Driant, Marival, and 
Jeanne d'Arc, for these German de- 
fenses did not even appear on the small- 
scale maps in the hands of the 1 1 th In- 
fantry. The regiment assumed that the 
fire that had actually come from the bat- 
teries of Fort Driant was the work of 
roving German guns. In addition, any 
crossing of the Moselle in the Dornot area 
at this particular time might possibly be 
subjected to enemy ground action on the 
near bank, for on the night of 7 Septem- 
ber the situation around Noveant to the 
south and Ancy-sur-Moselle to the north 
was still fluid. 15 

Crossing at Dornot 

As morning approached on 8 Septem- 
ber, troops of the 5th Infantry and 7th 
Armored Divisions were deployed as fol- 
lows: To the north, outside the Dornot 
sector, CCA was digging in alongside the 



15 This terrain study is based on the following: 
Moselle River Crossing; Fifth Infantry Division; Tenth 
Infantry; Eleventh Infantry; Intervs with Coghill, Morse, 
Yuill, and Thompson; author's visit to area, Jun 49. 
For other discussion of terrain, see Cole, The Lorraine 
Campaign, pp. 25-29, 126-29. 



Moselle near Talange, northwest of Metz, 
and the 2d Infantry was facing a strong 
defense between Amanvillers and Verne- 
ville, abreast and west of Metz. The 
10th Infantry was in 5th Division reserve 
and CCR in corps reserve. To the 
south, Force II (less Company B, 23d 
Armored Infantry Battalion) of CCB was 
in an assembly area north of Onville, and 
two companies of the 1st Battalion, 11th 
Infantry, were astride the high ground 
north and south of Arnaville. In the 
vicinity of le Chene and Dornot was 
Force I of CCB: the 23d Armored Infan- 
try Battalion (including Company B); 
Company A, 31st Tank Battalion; and 
Company B, 33d Armored Engineer 
Battalion. (Force Fs 2d Platoon, 814th 
Tank Destroyer Battalion, had previously 
been committed and virtually annihilated 
east of Rezonville, and the 434th Ar- 
mored Field Artillery Battalion, while 
supporting Force I, was in firing posi- 
tions just northwest of Rezonville.) 
Astride the high ground west and south 
of Dornot, ready to assist the crossing by 
fire, was the 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry, 
and in Dornot itself, the 2d Battalion, 
1 1 th Infantry. In the rear of Dornot 
was the remainder of the 1 1 th Combat 
Team: the 11th Infantry (less its three 
rifle battalions); the 19th Field Artillery 
Battalion; Company C, 818th Tank De- 
stroyer Battalion; Company C, 735th 
Tank Battalion; Company C, 5th Med- 
ical Battalion; Company C, 7th Engineer 
Combat Battalion; and an attached 
reconnaissance platoon of the 818th Tank 
Destroyer Battalion. 

The mixture of CCB and 1 1 th Infantry 
units had produced a maze of perplexity 
in the command picture. Both CCB 
and the 11th Infantry had orders to cross 
the Moselle at Dornot, General Irwin, 



14 



THREE BATTLES 



5th Division commander, had been given 
verbal orders by XX Corps placing him 
in command of all troops in the Dornot 
area; but this information had not 
reached General Thompson, CCB com- 
mander, and he thought he was in com- 
mand. 

The commander of the 2d Battalion, 
11th Infantry, Lt. Col. Kelley B. Lem- 
mon, Jr., whose unit was to make the 5th 
Division assault crossing, had understood 
that CCB, 7th Armored Division, would 
cross the river approximately 1,000 yards 
north of Dornot. He had been ordered 
to make a crossing during darkness and 
was in Dornot preparing to execute this 
mission when he found the units of the 
7th Armored in the area. Talking with 
Colonel Allison, commander of the 23d 
Armored Infantry Battalion, he discov- 
ered that the armored infantry was to 
force a crossing at daylight, also at 
Dornot. 

The men of Colonel Lemmon's 2d 
Battalion, 11th Infantry, were already 
having difficulty getting into Dornot, for 
vehicles of CCB had clogged the narrow 
road into the town. Further compli- 
cating the situation, rain began to fall, 
making the road even more treacherous 
in the darkness. Fire from Germans 
still on the west bank harassed traffic 
from the flanks, and when attempts were 
made to pull the armored vehicles out 
of the area the two-way movement only 
resulted in traffic jams at Gorze and 
Dornot. 

It was still dark when rumor spread 
that a staff officer from XX Corps had 
appeared and ordered the armored in- 
fantry to cross in advance of the 2d 
Battalion. Although this staff officer 
was never identified and his intervention 
denied by XX Corps, the idea, at least, 



was prevalent and added to the con- 
fusion. 16 

Faced with the confusion on the ground 
and the probability that his men could 
not be ready for a crossing during dark- 
ness, Colonel Lemmon finally established 
communications with his regimental com- 
mander, Colonel Yuill. Shortly after 
daylight, 8 September, Colonel Yuill told 
his 2d Battalion commander that he 
should proceed with his crossing plans 
and that the 23d Armored Infantry Bat- 
talion was attached for the crossing. The 
basis for such a statement was probably 
the verbal order given General Irwin 
earlier by XX Corps, that the 5th Divi- 
sion was to force a crossing and use the 
23d Armored Infantry Battalion to aug- 
ment its own infantry. But a short while 
later General Thompson, CCB com- 
mander, used the communications of the 
2d Battalion, 11th Infantry, 17 to tele- 
phone Colonel Yuill. Informing him of 
his mission to cross the Moselle, General 
Thompson requested permission to use a 
battalion of the 11th Infantry to assist 
his own 23d Armored Infantry, because 
his battalion had been seriously depleted 
in the battles to hold at Dornot and le 
Chene. Since the general's mission was 
the same, since co-ordination was ap- 
parently the only solution to a confused 
situation, and since General Thompson 



16 Moselle River Crossing; Ltrs, Gen Thompson to 
Hist Div; Intervs, Thompson, Morse, Coghill, Yuill, 
Lemmon, and Lemmon- Yuill; Ltr, Gen Walker to 
Hist Div, 6 Jan 49. Colonel Lemmon says that this 
staff officer definitely appeared at his command post 
in Dornot and gave such an order to him and to 
Colonel Allison, 23d Armored Infantry Battalion. 
In General Walker's letter, he says that he ordered an 
investigation later to determine the identity of this 
officer, but the investigation proved inconclusive. 

17 General Thompson says 3d Battalion, but Colo- 
nel Lemmon and Colonel Yuill, recalling the incident 
in detail, say 2d Battalion. 




CONGESTION IN DORNOT before first crossing of Moselle. The entire town was 
under observation from dominating east-bank hills visible in top background. 



16 



THREE BATTLES 



was the senior officer on the ground. 
Colonel Yuill approved and designated 
Colonel Lemmon's 2d Battalion. This 
was a major step toward co-ordination, 
but there was nothing to indicate that 
General Irwin was aware of the negotia- 
tions, and there was no real co-ordination 
among supporting elements of the two 
divisions. Colonel Yuill, although hav- 
ing granted General Thompson's request, 
did not consider that his 2d Battalion was 
in any sense attached to CCB, only that 
General Thompson was in over-all com- 
mand. 18 

After his telephone conversation with 
Colonel Yuill, General Thompson made 
contact with the 7th Armored Division 
artillery officer. Since he had received 
no response to urgent messages of the day 
before to division headquarters requesting 
assault boats, General Thompson told 
his artillery officer to avoid both division 
and corps headquarters but to secure as 
much artillery as possible for support of 
the crossing. He wanted a preparatory 
barrage of smoke and high explosive on 
the east-bank hills beyond Dornot for 
forty-five minutes prior to the assault. 
The 2d Battalion, 11th Infantry, mean- 
while was making its own preparations 
for artillery support from its own divi- 
sion. 19 

Although it would seem that two di- 
vergent efforts to cross the Moselle were 
being made at the same spot, real co- 
ordination finally came on battalion level 
and all preparations eventually worked 
toward one end. According to Colonel 
Lemmon, both he and the 23d Armored 
Infantry commander. Colonel Allison, 



18 Intervs with Thompson, Lemmon, Yuill, Lem 
mon-Yuill; Ltr, Col Birdsong to Hist Div. 

19 Intervs with Thompson and Lemmon. 



recognized that the 2d Battalion, 11th 
Infantry, was the major unit and was 
giving the orders. The 2d Battalion's 
original plans had been made with the 
idea that elements of CCB would cross 
one thousand yards north of Dornot and 
take Jouy-aux-Arches, the latter town to 
be on the north flank of the 1 1th Infantry 
bridgehead. Now the two infantry bat- 
talion commanders decided that both 
units would cross near the small lagoon 
on the west bank, across from the irregu- 
lar-shaped patch of woods on the east 
bank. The 23d Armored Infantry was 
to swing north, capture Luzerailles Farm, 
approximately halfway between Fort St. 
Blaise and Jouy-aux-Arches, and estab- 
lish a defense in the southern edge of 
Jouy-aux-Arches, both positions to pro- 
tect the north flank of the bridgehead. 
The 2d Battalion, 1 1 th Infantry, was to 
advance immediately on Fort St. Blaise. 
The 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry, which 
would cross later, was to capture Fort 
Sommy and protect the south flank of 
the bridgehead. 20 

Because supporting artillery was not 
completely in firing position, General 
Thompson and Colonel Yuill, apparently 
at about the same time and with approval 
of the 5th Division commander, decided 
to postpone the attack. Another factor 
in delay was the lack of assault boats. 
Only those few brought to Dornot by 
the 11th Infantry's attached platoon of 
Company C, 7th Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion, were present until about 0800 
when some twenty additional boats 
arrived. The arrival of these boats was 
the result of a lengthy trip during the 
night through rear areas by General 
Thompson himself, after his repeated 



Intervs with Lemmon and Lemmon-Yuiil. 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



17 



requests for boats the day before had 
brought no results. 21 

Plans for the crossing proceeded, some 
apparently made by General Thompson, 
others by the two battalion commanders, 
and some by Colonel Yuill, 11th Infantry 
commander. The main fact was that 
the 2d Battalion, 11th Infantry, would 
furnish the bulk of the troops, for in the 
battles at le Chene and Dornot the 23d 
Armored Infantry had been reduced to 
about half its normal strength and was 
depleted even further when Company A 
was ordered to hold the left flank of the 
near bank at le Chene. The 3d Bat- 
talion, 11th Infantry, from its positions 
atop the high ground south of Dornot, 
was to assist the crossing with machine 
gun and mortar fire, while its Company 
L sent a platoon to investigate Noveant 
and place outposts in the town as south- 
flank protection for the crossing. This 
Company L platoon subsequently found 
Noveant unoccupied but withdrew in the 
afternoon when plans were made for a 
3d Battalion crossing. Two companies 
of the 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry, were 
still in position astride the high ground 
around Arnaville, with elements of Com- 
pany B assigned to clear the enemy from 
a pocket at Ste. Catherine's Farm, be- 
tween Gorze and Dornot. 

With the confusion of men and vehicles 
still existing in the Dornot vicinity, at 
0930 General Thompson ordered the 
vehicles of his combat command, includ- 
ing the 31st Tank Battalion, which was 
close behind Dornot, to move from the 
area. Remaining were CCB's armored 
infantry, engineers, and medics. Appar- 
ently not all vehicles succeeded in clear- 

81 Intervs with Lemmon, Lemmon-Yuill, Yuill, 
Thompson, Morse, Coghill; Ltrs, Gen Thompson to 
Hist Div. 



ing the area, for the infantry complained 
that a number of armored cars with their 
bright cerise air-identification panels 
were left parked in the open along the 
road leading from Dornot to the river, 
drawing enemy artillery fire. 22 The con- 
fusion between 7th Armored and 5th 
Division troops was finally dissipated on 
9 September when CCB was officially 
attached to the 5th Division in exchange 
for attachment of the 2d Infantry Regi- 
mental Combat Team to the 7th Ar- 
mored Division. 

The Assault Begins 

Ready to support the crossing on the 
morning of 8 September were the 19th, 
21st, 46th, and attached 284th Field 
Artillery Battalions of the 5th Division 
and the 434th Armored and attached 
558th Field Artillery Battalions of the 
7th Armored Division. The new hour 
of assault was set for 1045. Under cover 
of heavy blanket concentrations by the 
artillery (few point targets could be 
discerned) and a smoke screen on Forts 
St. Blaise and Sommy, the infantry, 
assisted by the platoon of Company C, 
7th Engineers, and elements of Company 
B, 33d Armored Engineers, moved the 
assault craft to the water's edge. Using 
an underpass beneath the railroad track, 
they moved northeast to a spot between 
the lagoon and the river across from the 
small irregular-shaped patch of woods on 
the east bank. (To the troops in il it- 
action, this woods became known, appar- 
ently because of a horseshoe-shaped de- 
fense later set up there, as the "horseshoe 
woods.") Enemy shelling and machine 
gun fire began to harass the infantrymen 

J! Eleventh Infantry; Intervs with Thompson, Morse, 
Lemmon- Yuill. 



APPROACHING THE MOSELLE UNDER ENEMY FIRE for first river crossing 
near Dor not on S Sebttmbtr 1944. 



20 



THREE BATTLES 



from the moment they moved through 
the railroad underpass. At least one 
infantry squad carrying an assault boat 
received a direct hit. It became neces- 
sary to call for more supporting artillery 
fire and to send a patrol from the 23d 
Armored Infantry Battalion to the north 
to eliminate enemy small arms fire. This 
patrol finally knocked out the west-bank 
opposition and captured some twenty 
prisoners. 

Not until about 1115 did Company F, 
led by its company commander, 1st Lt. 
Nathan F. Drake, in the lead boat, launch 
the assault in five assault craft. The 
crossing was contested by rifle and ma- 
chine gun fire from the east bank and 
mortar and artillery fire that wounded 
several Company F and engineer troops. 
Before loading in assault boats, each 
wave of infantry would take cover in a 
shallow ditch about twenty yards from 
the river, then make a dash through the 
enemy fire to reach the boats. Next to 
cross, despite continued enemy fire which 
killed one man and wounded five, was 
Company G. By 1 320 all of Companies 
F and G, plus a platoon of heavy machine 
guns and 81 -mm. mortars from Company 
H, were across the river, and Company E 
had begun its crossing. Once beyond 
the river, the men fanned out in the woods 
for local security and began to reorganize. 
The elements of Companies B and C, 
23d Armored Infantry, whose combined 
strength now totaled only forty-eight 
men, including Colonel Allison, the bat- 
talion commander, and his forward com- 
mand group, went across intermingled 
with the two lead companies of the 2d 
Battalion, 11th Infantry. 23 

23 Moselle River Crossing; Eleventh Infantry; Fifth 
Infantry Division; 1 1th Inf S-3 Jnl, 8 Sep 44; Ltr, Capt 
Morris M. Hochberg (commander of the armored 



Valuable fire support in the Dornot 
crossing was furnished by the machine 
guns, mortars, and 57-mm. antitank guns 
of the 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry, from 
positions on the bluffs south of Dornot. 
Forward observers attached to the 3d 
Battalion from the 19th Field Artillery 
Battalion made good use of the command- 
ing observation to adjust fires in support 
of the 2d Battalion, 1 1 th Infantry. Ar- 
tillery liaison officers from both 5th 
Infantry and 7th Armored Division artil- 
lery were with Colonel Lemmon, 2d 
Battalion commander. The howitzers 
of Cannon Company, 11th Infantry, 
were in direct-fire positions on the heights 
just south of Dornot. 24 

The engineer plan for the crossing had 
called for the 537th Light Ponton Com- 
pany (1103d Engineer Combat Group), 
assisted by one platoon of Company C, 
160th Engineer Combat Battalion, to 
construct and operate infantry support 
rafts. Company C, 150th Engineer 
Combat Battalion, Company B, 160th 
Engineers, and elements of the 989th 
Treadway Bridge Company were to con- 
struct a treadway bridge in the vicinity 
of Dornot. But continued enemy ma- 
chine gun, mortar, and artillery fire 
forced abandonment of this plan on the 
first day. The corps engineers were held 
back by Colonel Yuill, 11th Infantry 
commander, who realized that bridge- 
building under the circumstances was 
impossible. Except for two platoons 
the corps engineers either remained in 

engineers) to Hist Div, 21 Apr 50; Intervs with 
Thompson, Lemmon, Lemmon-Yuill; Ltrs, Gen 
Thompson to Hist Div. The 2d Battalion, 11th 
Infantry, Unit Journal, is of little value since entries 
for this period were later destroyed by enemy artillery 
fire. See also AAR's of 23d Armd Inf Bn and CCB, 
7th Armd Div, and arty units, Sep 44. 

24 Ltr, Col Birdsong to Hist Div; Intervs with Yuill 
and Lemmon. 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



21 



their assembly areas or did mine clear- 
ance on rear-area roads. One of these 
platoons, the 1st Platoon, Company C, 
150th Engineers, moved to the crossing 
site in early afternoon on reconnaissance 
but met intense enemy fire. Instead 
of preparing for bridge construction, the 
platoon was pressed into service assisting 
the ferrying of troops and supplies and 
evacuating wounded. When this pla- 
toon was relieved after dark by the com- 
pany's 2d Platoon, the platoon of 7th 
Engineers and elements of Company B, 
33d Armored Engineers, were also re- 
lieved. Ferrying operations thus passed 
to control of the 2d Platoon, Company C, 
150th Engineers. During the afternoon 
one squad of the armored engineers had 
cut the railroad tracks in preparation for 
building a road over the tracks to the 
river. 25 

According to the original plan for the 
assault crossing the 3d Battalion, 11th 
Infantry, was to await the initial success 
of the 2d Battalion's effort and then cross 
the river farther to the south. Recon- 
naissance by the battalion S-3 and an 
attached engineer officer revealed a 
likely site in the northern outskirts 
of Noveant. Although the battalion 
commander issued tentative orders for 
the attack, it was delayed to await the 
outcome of the 2d Battalion's attempts 
to expand the bridgehead opposite Dor- 
not. Subsequent action at the 2d Bat- 
talion site caused cancellation of plans 
for a second crossing, and at 1705 Com- 
pany K was ordered to cross at Dornot, 
to be followed as soon as possible by the 
remainder of the 3d Battalion. Approxi- 

85 1103d Engr (C) Gp and 150th Engr (C) Bn 
AAR's, Sep 44 ; Interv with Yuill ; Ltr, 1 st Lt Kingsley 
E. Owen (formerly Ex Off, Co B, 33d Armd Engr 
Bn) to Hist Div, 21 Apr 50. 



mately one and one-half platoons of 
Company K had reached the east bank 
by 1745, despite being held up by heavy 
enemy mortar fire and confusion with 
the rear elements of Company E, which 
was receiving machine gun fire from its 
left front and still blocked the crossing 
site. The remainder of Company K 
managed to cross at intervals during early 
evening, but the confined situation in the 
bridgehead forced cancellation, for the 
moment at least, of plans to send over 
the rest of the 3d Battalion. 26 

Not all the second company had crossed 
when shortly after noon General Thomp- 
son, CCB commander, received a mes- 
sage to report to 7th Armored Division 
headquarters. Here he was relieved of 
command of CCB and subsequently re- 
duced in rank. One of the reasons 
given for his relief was that CCB had 
established a bridgehead across the 
Moselle on 7 September and then had 
withdrawn it contrary to the orders of 
the XX Corps commander. This was 
not a fact, for no bridgehead had been 
established on 7 September: this was only 
the small patrol which had crossed in 
three boats and had been almost annihi- 
lated. General Thompson was later 
exonerated and restored to the rank of 
brigadier general. 27 

The departure of the CCB commander, 
the only officer above the rank of lieu- 
tenant colonel present thus far in the 
vicinity of the crossing site, placed full 

16 3d Bn, 11th Inf, Unit Jnl, 8 Sep 44; Eleventh 
Infantry. 

27 Interv with Thompson. See also in the OCMH 
files a copy of the letter sent to the Chief of Staff by 
General Thompson, 6 October 1944, explaining the 
points raised in the letter which initiated his relief. 
General Thompson was advanced to brigadier gen- 
eral by Special Orders 210, 20 October 1948, under 
provisions of Section 203 (a) of the Act of Congress, 
approved 29 June 1948 (PL 810 80th Cong). 



22 



THREE BATTLES 



responsibility for the river crossing in 
the hands of the 11th Infantry. From 
this time on there was apparently no 
question but that it was an 11th Infantry 
bridgehead supported by the 23d Ar- 
mored Infantry Battalion of CCB. 28 

The German Reaction 

From the German viewpoint the cross- 
ing of the Moselle was almost as confused 
as the original American preparations. 
Defending the east bank at the time of 
the assault were the 282d Infantry Battalion 
("Battalion Voss"), made up of men with 
stomach ailments, and the SS Signal 
School Met z ("Battalion Berg"), both under 
the command of Division Number 462. 
Headquarters for Battalion Berg was in 
Jouy-aux-Arches; for Battalion Voss in 
Corny. The Americans had crossed the 
river on the boundary between the two 
battalions, a line through the middle of 
the horseshoe woods. 

The only other German troops in the 
vicinity of the crossing site were the 37th 
SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment of the 17th SS 
Panzer Grenadier Division. This regiment 
had arrived east of Metz on 6 September 
after a road march of approximately fifty 
miles from the vicinity of Saarlautern. 
On 7 September the regiment's 2d Battal- 
ion (battle strength: 620 men) had been 
ordered to Marly, some three miles east 
of Jouy-aux-Arches. Attached to the 2d 
Battalion was a company of armored in- 
fantry, seven Flak tanks, 29 two assault 
guns and one 75-mm. self-propelled gun. 
Having arrived in Marly in midafternoon 
(7 September), the battalion during the 

28 Intervs with Yuill and Lemmon-Yuill. 

29 The Flak tank (Flakpanzer) is a hybrid armored 
vehicle consisting of a light or medium antiaircraft 
gun mounted on a tank chassis. 



evening passed to control of Division 
Number 462. 

About 1000, 8 September, the date of 
the American crossing, the bulk of the 
2d Battalion, 37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regi- 
ment, moved to Augny, between Marly 
and Jouy-aux-Arches. At noon one of 
the company commanders reported that 
he had talked with a wounded man who 
said the Americans had crossed the river 
but were equipped with no weapons 
heavier than submachine guns. A little 
more than an hour later, when a message 
from the German corps headquarters 
indicated that about one company of 
Americans had crossed the river at the 
horseshoe woods, the commander of the 
2d Battalion sent a patrol to Jouy-aux- 
Arches to determine the truth of the 
report. The patrol returned at 1430 
with a written message from the com- 
mander of Battalion Berg stating that the 
enemy had crossed north of Corny, that 
a large part of Battalion Voss had been 
routed, and that there had also been some 
penetration in the sector of Battalion Berg 
(SS Signal School Metz). Although the 
enemy could be thrown back if reserves 
were brought up, the message stated, the 
SS Signal School had no reserves available, 
and "the situation is serious, unless rein- 
forcements arrive." 

Meanwhile, several reports had been 
received from Battalion Voss that there 
was "no change in [the] situation." Be- 
cause this news contradicted his informa- 
tion from Battalion Berg, the 2d Battalion 
commander sent a noncommissioned offi- 
cer to Corny to find out what actually 
was taking place. He returned with a 
message from the commander of Battalion 
Voss stating, somewhat inexplicably, that 
a company of the latter battalion "took 
off." Perhaps this news explained the 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAV1LLE 



23 



earlier report that a large part of Battalion 
Voss had been routed, but it failed to 
indicate that there had been an American 
crossing. In the face of these contra- 
dictory messages, the 2d Battalion com- 
mander planned originally to commit 
only two reinforced platoons, one moving 
south from Jouy-aux- Arches and one 
moving north from Corny, with the mis- 
sion of throwing back the enemy — if 
found. When continuing reports from 
Battalion Berg in Jouy-aux-Arches indi- 
cated that a bridgehead had been estab- 
lished and that reinforcements were 
crossing the river, he changed his plans. 
He ordered his 7th Company to move to 
Corny and attack north and his 5th 
Company to Jouy-aux-Arches and attack 
south. The 8th Company, a heavy weap- 
ons company, was to support the attacks 
with infantry howitzer and mortar fire. 
The companies moved out for the attack 
at 1515.3" 

Advance to Fort St. Blaise 

At the horseshoe woods, while the early 
effort of the 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry, 
to reinforce the bridgehead had been 
taking place, Companies F and G had, in 
late afternoon of 8 September, moved 
out of the woods in an advance across 
the Metz highway and up the slopes 
leading to Fort St. Blaise, m ore than 



2,000 yards beyond the river. (Map 1) 
Company E, still reorganizing in the 
woods, was to follow when reorganization 

50 For a detailed report of this action from the 
German side, see pages from the war diary of the 2d 
Bn, 37th SS Pz Gren Regt, found in a file of miscel- 
laneous papers, labeled AUg., 1, 2, 3, 4, SS Pz- Gren. 
Rgt. 37 (Feldgericht) (hereafter cited as 37th SS Pz 
Gren Regt Miscellaneous File). This file contains an 
odd collection of documents, most of them records of 
disciplinary actions taken by the 1st Bn of the regi- 
ment. The 282d Inf Bn has been identified through 
5th Div G-2 sources only. 



was complete and mop up bypassed 
resistance. Company K, when other 
elements of the 3d Battalion were able to 
cross, was to capture Fort Sommy. Al- 
though the 23d Armored Infantry Battal- 
ion had been ordered to take Luzerailles 
Farm and the southern edge of Jouy-aux- 
Arches, the small number of armored 
infantry to cross apparently negated this 
original plan, for no attempt was made 
to execute it. 

Accompanied by Capt. Ferris Church, 
the 2d Battalion S-3, the two lead com- 
panies moved out, Company F forward 
and Company G echeloned to the left 
rear. Climbing the steep slope past occa- 
sional patches of trees and through vine- 
yards and irregularly spaced fruit trees, the 
men met virtually no enemy opposition 
and only a strange silence from the forti- 
fication at the top of the hill. There 
were no casualties in the advance until 
Company F had reached the outer de- 
fenses of Fort St. Blaise. There the 
company commander. Lieutenant Drake, 
leaned over a wounded German to ask 
him a question. As the lieutenant 
straightened and raised his head, one of 
three German riflemen hidden scarcely 
ten yards away shot him through the fore- 
head. He died instantly as the men 
about him turned their weapons on the 
three Germans. Command of the com- 
pany fell to 1st Lt. Robert L. Robertson. 31 

Continuing its advance, Company F 
slowly and methodically cut its way 
through five separate double-apron 
barbed wire obstacles, only to come up 



31 Unless otherwise noted, this section is based on 
the following; Moselle River Crossing; Combat Interv 
38 with Sgt Hugh B. Sikes and Cpl Otto Halverson, 
3d Plat, Co G, 11th Inf (hereafter cited as Combat 
Interv 38 with Sikes, Halverson); Eleventh Infantry; 
Fifth Infantry Division; Intervs with Lemmon and 
Lemmon-Yuill. 



24 



THREE BATTLES 




MAP 7 



against an iron portcullis studded with 
curved iron hooks that prevented scaling. 
On the other side of the portcullis a dry 
moat about thirty feet wide and fifteen 
feet deep surrounded the fort. The fort 
itself was a huge domed structure of three 
large casemates constructed of concrete 
and covered by grassy earth which pro- 
vided excellent camouflage and addi- 



tional protection. Although the men of 
the 2d Battalion did not know it, Fort St. 
Blaise was manned at this time by only 
a weak security detachment of a replace- 
ment battalion which withdrew as the 
Americans approached. 32 

32 MS # B-042 (Krause). Colonel Lemmon says, 
"Undefended or not, our people got fire from the fort 
and heard Germans inside." See Interv with 
Lemmon- Yuill. 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



25 



Not knowing that the fort was unde- 
fended, Captain Church, after radio 
consultation with his battalion headquar- 
ters, ordered his two companies to pull 
back about 400 yards to permit the artil- 
lery to plaster the fort before the final 
assault. The companies did pull back 
but, when the supporting artillery fired, 
three rounds fell short, 33 wounding several 
of the Americans and killing three. The 
American artillery fire seemed a cue for a 
heavy concentration of German mortar 
and artillery fire, and at the same time 
(about 1730) German infantry began 
counterattacking on both flanks and in- 
filtrating in the unprotected rear of the 
two companies. Over his radio Captain 
Church ordered Company E to move up 
quickly to close the gap between it and 
the advance elements. But it was too 
late. Intense machine gun cross fire 
swept in from both flanks, and the broad 
Metz highway and the flatland on either 
side of it had become a deathtrap. 

The enemy threatened at any moment 
to split the battalion. Captain Church's 
forward companies were stretched out so 
precariously on the open slope of the hill 
that he ordered a withdrawal back to 
the woods. So effective was the enemy 
infiltration in the battalion rear by this 
time that the withdrawal was planned as 

33 Moselle River Crossing; Combat Inter v 38 with 
Sikes, Halverson. Because no mention of short 
rounds is made in artillery journals, it seems possible 
that these "short rounds" were from German artillery 
at Fort Driant or from one of the other west-bank 
forts. According to an interview with Colonel 
Lemmon there were more than three rounds. From 
his observation post in Dornot, he could see a bat- 
talion volley land among his troops. Checks through 
his 5th Division and 7th Armored Division artillery 
liaison officers revealed, he says, that the fire was 
from a 7th Armored Division artillery unit and had 
been called for by the 7th Armored Division artillery 
liaison officer in his headquarters. The artillery 
liaison officer had the fire lifted immediately. 



an attack downhill in a skirmish line. 
But vineyards and patches of woods and 
enemy fire prevented control of the 
skirmish formation, and the two com- 
panies separated, each coming down the 
hill in a ragged single column. An old 
German trick of firing one machine gun 
high with tracer bullets and another 
lower to the ground with regular ammu- 
nition took its toll. The retreat moved 
slowly and casualties were heavy. As 
darkness approached and visibility de- 
creased, unit commanders told their men 
to make a last dash for the woods; if a 
man was hit, he was to be left alone to 
crawl the rest of the way as best he could. 
The bulk of the companies were three 
hours in returning to the horseshoe woods, 
and some men were still straggling in at 
daylight the next morning. The dead 
and wounded marked the path of with- 
drawal. Although medics went out dur- 
ing the night and the next day to care 
for the wounded, they were often shot 
down at their tasks. 

Earlier in the afternoon of 8 Septem- 
ber, after the German commander of the 
2d Battalion, 37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regi- 
ment, located at Augny, had ordered a 
counterattack by two of his companies, 
the 5th Company had reached Jouy-aux- 
Arches at 1700 and the 7th Company had 
reached Corny at 1715. Although the 
5th Company soon launched its attack to 
the south, the 7th Company in Corny was 
immediately pinned down by strong 
American artillery and machine gun fire 
from west of the Moselle and suffered 
heavy losses. Because of another mes- 
sage from. Battalion Berg in Jouy-aux- 
Arches at 1620, indicating that the town 
could not be held unless reinforcements 
arrived (the 5th Company had not yet 
reached Jouy), the commander of the 2d 



26 



THREE BATTLES 



Battalion decided to commit his 6th Com- 
pany to attack "objective: Jouy-aux- 
Arches." By 1800 the 6th Company had 
reached the town, no doubt finding it 
still in German hands. The 5th Company 
reported one minute later that it had 
reached the horseshoe woods and had 
taken twenty-five prisoners. The 7th 
Company was still pinned down at Corny. 

But now the 2d Battalion commander 
received a message indicating that the 
Americans had occupied Fort St. Blaise. 
At approximately the same time, the 
commander of Division Number 462 reached 
the 2d Battalion's command post in Augny 
and stressed the importance of retaking 
the fort. Accordingly, the 6th Company 
in Jouy-aux-Arches was committed to 
"retake" Fort St. Blaise. Under "heav- 
iest [American] artillery fire," the 6th 
Company attacked and occupied the fort 
at approximately 2200 without making 
contact with the Americans or suffering 
any casualties. The Germans believed 
that the Americans had had to evacuate 
the fort because of their own artillery 
fire. 

Meanwhile, in Augny, two companies 
of the 208th Replacement and Training Bat- 
talion had arrived and were sent to Jouy- 
aux-Arches to reinforce Battalion Berg. 
About 2100, German reserves had been 
further increased when a Luftwaffe signal 
battalion and the 1st Battalion, 37th SS 
Panzer Grenadier Regiment, had arrived in 
Augny. 34 

Upon withdrawal of the two American 
assault companies, the men of the 23d 
Armored Infantry Battalion and Com- 
panies E and K, 1 1 th Infantry, began to 
dig in along the perimeter of the horse- 
shoe woods. As troops of Companies F 



» 4 37 ih SS Pz Gun Regt Miscellaneous File. 



and G straggled into the original bridge- 
head area, 2d Lt. John A. Diersing, com- 
manding Company E after its original 
commander had been wounded, his 1st 
sergeant, Claud W. Hembree, and other 
officers and noncommissioned officers 
directed the survivors into defensive posi- 
tions. All that the day's efforts and high 
casualties had gained was a minuscule 
bridgehead 200 yards deep and 200 yards 
wide, encompassing no more than the 
horseshoe woods. Only heavy concen- 
trations from the supporting artillery bat- 
talions prevented the Germans from re- 
taking even this small gain and protected 
the Americans as they dug in. The men 
were still digging in when the first 
"counterattack" against the bridgehead 
itself began: three enemy tanks drove 
along the highway from the north, spray- 
ing the woods line with bullets and shell 
fragments. Although protected by "ba- 
zooka pants," the tanks would not close 
with the defenders, their crews contenting 
themselves with trying to draw fire to 
determine the exact location of the Amer- 
ican positions. The defenders' line was 
hard hit, particularly the positions of 
Company E at the point of the horseshoe, 
but the men held their fire. A group of 
enemy infantry, estimated at company 
size, heavily armed with automatic 
weapons, and shouting loudly, "Yanks 
kaput!" followed soon after the tanks. 
This time Company E opened fire, but 
the enemy infantry did not close, con- 
tinuing to follow their tanks until out of 
sight to the right. 

Almost hourly for the remainder of the 
night (8-9 September) the Germans 
counterattacked, mainly with rifles and 
burp guns. As the enemy formed across 
the highway, the defenders could hear 
shouted orders, followed by almost fanat- 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



27 



ical charges with the enemy bunched and 
yelling. The American automatic rifles 
had a field day, and turned back every 
attack with high casualties for the Ger- 
mans; but the defenders were only par- 
tially dug in, if at all, and casualties 
among the Americans were also numer- 
ous. The woods were filled with cries 
for medics. Sergeant Hembree, Com- 
pany E, realizing that such calls would 
disclose positions, as well as indicate the 
number of casualties, and that all avail- 
able aid men were working near the river 
in an improvised aid station, sent around 
an order that no one was to cry out. The 
exhibition of self-discipline that followed 
was one of the heartening feats of courage 
during the hectic days in the bridgehead. 

During the first-night counterattacks, 
two men of Company K, Pfc. George T. 
Dickey and Pfc. Frank Lalopa, who had 
volunteered to man an outpost beyond 
the main line of resistance, stuck to their 
post despite a warning order to withdraw. 
Armed only with M-l rifles, the two men 
held off the enemy until finally they were 
surrounded and killed. The next morn- 
ing when other men of Company K 
crawled out to the position, they found 
the bodies of twenty-two Germans, some 
within three yards of the bodies of Dickey 
and Lalopa. 

Soon after the defense was organized, 
Captain Church returned to the battalion 
command post on the west bank to report 
the situation. 35 Left in command of the 

35 Colonel Lemmon intended going into the bridge- 
head the first day, but when his advance command 
group went forward in midafternoort to establish a 
command post the men met intense enemy fire. 
From this time on, Colonel Lemmon felt that he 
could exercise better command and co-ordination 
from the west bank. His CP was in Dornot through- 
out the battle, although it had to be moved often 
because of enemy shelling. Interv with Lemmon. 



bridgehead forces was the Company G 
commander, Capt. Jack S. Gerrie. While 
the battalion commander, Colonel Lem- 
mon, had realized that the situation east 
of the river was serious, he was further 
impressed by Captain Church's report 
and requested permission to evacuate his 
battalion. Colonel Yuill in turn asked 
permission of division. Although Gen- 
eral Irwin was aware that the situation 
in the bridgehead was far from satisfac- 
tory, XX Corps refused to permit with- 
drawal until another bridgehead was 
secured. A crossing by elements of the 
80th Division of XII Corps to the south 
had been beaten back, and the precarious 
foothold opposite Dornot was thus the 
only remaining bridgehead across the 
Moselle. If the Dornot crossing could 
be held while the 10th Infantry made 
another crossing farther south, General 
Irwin reasoned, there would be a chance 
to expand the Dornot bridgehead to link 
up with the 10th Infantry. He therefore 
denied Colonel Lemmon's request. The 
Dornot bridgehead was to be held "at 
all costs." 36 

Support of the Dornot Bridgehead 

After its heavy preassault bombard- 
ment and until daylight of 9 September, 
supporting artillery, particularly the 
direct-support 19th Field Artillery Bat- 
talion under command of Lt. Col. Charles 
J. Payne, fired heavily in support of the 
2d Battalion bridgehead. During the 
twenty-four-hour period the 19th Field 
Artillery Battalion fired 1,483 rounds. 



36 Gen Irwin, Personal Diary, loaned to Hist Div 
by Gen Irwin (hereafter cited as Irwin Diary), entry 
of 8 Sep 44; Interv with Yuill. (Quotation from 
Irwin Diary.) 



28 



THREE BATTLES 



Most concentrations were on call by 
SCR-300 from the infantry in the bridge- 
head, giving support which the infantry 
deemed "excellent and plentiful." The 
work of the 19th Field Artillery Battal- 
ion's liaison officer, Capt. Eldon B. Cole- 
grove, drew particular praise. He re- 
mained on duty on the west bank relaying 
requests for fire the entire time the 2d 
Battalion held on the east bank. Observ- 
ers for the 5th Division artillery units 
were either in Dornot or on the bluffs 
overlooking the river and thus had good 
over-all observation on the bridgehead 
area. One observer from the 7 th Ar- 
mored Division was in the bridgehead 
itself. 

During the afternoon of 8 September, 
further forward displacement of support- 
ing artillery was accomplished. While 
the attached 284th Field Artillery Bat- 
talion maintained direct support, the 
19th Field Artillery Battalion advanced 
to the vicinity of Ste. Catherine's Farm. 
One gun of Battery B, 46th Field Artillery 
Battalion, displaced to a position east of 
Gorze but, when subjected to what was 
believed to be observed enemy artillery 
fire, retired to new positions just west of 
Gorze. Here it was joined by the re- 
mainder of the battalion for a displace- 
ment in effective range of approximately 
3,000 yards. 

While armor had been available in the 
Dornot vicinity in early stages of the 
operation, it had been pulled out because 
of unsuitable terrain and lack of cover, 
and crossing armor into the tiny bridge- 
head was still impossible. Company C, 
735th Tank Battalion, a part of the 11th 
Combat Team, remained uncommitted, 
but one platoon of Company C, 818th 
Tank Destroyer Battalion, took position 
during the day on the high ground south- 



west of Dornot and engaged targets east 
of the river. 37 

Although repeated requests for air 
support had filtered back through higher 
echelons all day, none was forthcoming. 
Priority assignment of air to the fight for 
the Brittany port of Brest and to "riding 
herd" on the Third Army's open southern 
flank prevented its employment. 38 

The commander of the 1 103d Engineer 
Combat Group, Lt. Col. George H. 
Walker, still planned to build a bridge 
across the river opposite Dornot the night 
of 8-9 September, but again enemy fire 
proved too intense. Additional assault 
boats were brought up to increase the 
means of supply and evacuation of 
wounded and to replace boats that had 
been knocked out or sunk. The 2d 
Platoon, Company C, 150th Engineers, 
continued to operate the assault boats 
until 1400, 9 September, when relieved 
by a platoon of Company C, 204th Engi- 
neer Combat Battalion. Orders had 
been received late on 8 September de- 
taching the 150th Engineers and assigning 
the battalion to duty with the XII Corps 
to the south. 39 

When crossing the Moselle on 8 Sep- 
tember, each man of the 2d Battalion and 
Company K, 11th Infantry, had taken 
w r ith him all the ammunition he could 
carry and the usual canteen of water, 
but no rations. Beginning at 2200 that 
night, ten men of the 2d Battalion Recon- 
naissance Platoon carried all types of 

' 7 Moselle River Crossing; t9th FA Bn, 46th FA 
Bn, 735th Tk Bn, 818th TD Bn AAR's, Sep 44; 
Interv with Lemmon. 

3» Irwin Diary; 5th Div G-3 Jnl, 8 Sep 44; Cole, 
The Lorraine Campaign, Ch. Ill, p. 143, citing Ninth 
AF Opns Jnl, 9 Sep 44; XIX Tactical Air Command, 
Operations File, 1 Sep-15 Sep 44, inclusive (hereafter 
cited as XIX TAC Opns File). 

39 1 103d Engr (C) Gp, 150th Engr (C) Bn, 204th 
Engr (C) Bn AAR's Sep 44. 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



29 



infantry ammunition, three units of K 
ration per man within the bridgehead, 
and 250 gallons of water to the crossing 
site. The engineers subsequently loaded 
the supplies and pulled the boats across 
the river with ropes. Two crossings per 
boat were made without mishap until the 
last boat on its second trip was hit near 
the far shore by an enemy shell and five 
men were killed. 

The 2d Battalion medical aid station, 
set up in Dornot early on 8 September, 
merged during the afternoon with that 
of the 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry, which 
had moved into two cellars across the 
street. Although litter squads were at- 
tached initially to the rifle companies, 
only one squad managed to get across the 
Moselle, and the others worked on the 
near shore. Litter bearers first trans- 
ported patients to the railroad underpass; 
from there a jeep ran the gantlet of shell- 
fire into Dornot. The exposed nature of 
the road across the western hills from 
Dornot still necessitated a jeep carry from 
the aid station to an ambulance loading 
point behind the hills. Later in the 
afternoon enemy small arms fire raking 
the open ground between the railroad 
and the river prevented movement even 
of litter teams until after dark. During 
this period 2d Lt. T. H. Pritchett, medical 
administrative officer of the 3d Battalion, 
and T/5 Charles R. Gearhart, liaison 
agent from Collecting Company C, 5th 
Medical Battalion, crawled into this fire- 
swept area, gave first aid to three wounded 
men, and crawled out again, pulling the 
patients behind them. After dark, when 
sleet began to fall, further adding to the 
discomforts of the wounded, 2d Lt. Edwin 
R. Pyle, 2d Battalion medical adminis- 
trative officer, crossed into the bridge- 
head and supervised removal of wounded 



by boat to the west bank, where the 
litter-jeep relay used earlier transported 
the patients to Dornot. After Lieuten- 
ant Pyle returned to the west bank about 
0430, 9 September, evacuation was ac- 
complished solely by infantrymen and 
aid men within the bridgehead who some- 
how managed to find boats or expedient 
floats and moved their wounded com- 
rades to the west bank. 40 

At 2200 the night of 8 September the 
1 0th Infantry received orders to cross the 
Moselle on 10 September in the vicinity 
of Arnaville, south of Noveant. 41 A 
second bridgehead was to be attempted, 
this time allowing a reasonable period 
for planning and co-ordination. In the 
meantime, the battle to hold opposite 
Dornot went on. 

Holding the Dornot Site, 9-10 September 

By the morning of 9 September expec- 
tation evidently still existed above regi- 
mental level that the 11th Infantry's 
bridgehead could be expanded and 
pushed to the south. 42 Within the 
bridgehead itself there was no such op- 
timism. The men inside the little perim- 
eter knew that, if the German pressure 
continued as it had during the night, the 
foothold could not even be held for long. 
The regimental commander, Colonel 
Yuill, understood the situation and thus 
made no attempt to reinforce the bridge- 
head. Any such attempt, he knew, 
would be suicidal. 43 

Before daylight on 9 September a 
report from a German prisoner that there 



40 Moselle River Crossing; Combat Interv 38 with 
Sikes, Halverson; Eleventh Infantry. 

41 10th Inf Unit Jnl, 8 Sep 44. 

43 Irwin Diary; 5th Div G-3 Jnl, 9 Sep 44. 
43 Interv with Yuill, 



30 



THREE BATTLES 



were about one thousand Germans in one 
of the forts of the Verdun Group set off 
frantic requests for air support to hit the 
forts at daylight. Colonel Yuill, tele- 
phoning a number of times to 5th Division 
headquarters, said that "the bridgehead 
is desperate" and "it is vitally important 
that we get an air mission." The re- 
quest was approved soon after daylight 
and planes were expected momentarily, 
but they did not arrive. At 0920 (9 
September), General Irwin telephoned 
the XX Corps commander, General 
Walker, to protest the fact that the planes 
had been promised but had not appeared. 
While the 11th Infantry continued to cry 
frantically for planes, division promised 
that, if nothing else, "they would send 
cubs" (artillery observation planes). But 
at 1045 the regiment received the word 
it had apparently been fearing. The 
planes had been taken for missions against 
the primary target of Brest. 44 

Enemy pressure against the little 
bridgehead continued. Counterattack 
followed counterattack: during the entire 
time the battalion remained on the east 
bank an estimated thirty-six separate 
enemy assaults were hurled against it. 45 
Throughout the day of 9 September, and 
except for occasional lulls on 10 Septem- 
ber, the rain of enemy shells continued, 
not only on the horseshoe woods and the 

" 5th Div G-3 Jnl, 9 Sep 44. 

45 Although interviews and unit histories say "36 
separate counterattacks," the morning reports of the 
units involved, particularly the valuable reports of 
Company K, 11th Infantry, would seem to indicate 
no such large number. While the enemy launched 
several determined counterattacks against the bridge- 
head, others were no doubt local assaults. What 
matters is that the enemy kept up continuous pres- 
sure, See Daily Rpts, 8-1 1 Sep 44, found in Heeres- 
gruppe "G" Kriegstagebuch 2 {Army Group G War Diary 
2), Anlagen (Annexes) I .IX -30.1 X .44 (hereafter cited 
as Army Group G KTB 2, Anlagen 1. IX. -30. IX. 44); 
37th SS Pz Gren Regt Miscellaneous File. 



crossing site but on Dornot, le Chene, the 
high ground on either side of Dornot, and 
the road to the west from Dornot. The 
Germans made the most of their com- 
manding observation from Forts St. 
Blaise and Sommy, both of which proved 
impervious to American artillery fire; and 
the positions of the enemy's heavy guns 
and mortars could not be detected, not 
even from artillery observation planes. 
Shelling forced abandonment of all ef- 
forts to resupply the bridgehead in day- 
light, daytime activity resolving into 
hazardous efforts to evacuate the wound- 
ed. One of the wounded was Colonel 
Allison, the 23d Armored Infantry Bat- 
talion commander, the only field grade 
officer to cross into the bridgehead. 
Although evacuated, he died of wounds 
six days later. 

Despite a tendency toward bunching 
and almost banzai-like attacks, the enemy 
facing the horseshoe defense was wily 
and, it seemed to the defenders, often 
fanatical. Sometimes his attacks were 
supported by tanks which would give 
close-in artillery and machine gun sup- 
port while the accompanying infantry 
closed with persistence and courage. 

After the first day's attack by elements 
of the 2d Battalion, 37th SS Panzer Grenadier 
Regiment, the next major German attempt 
to eliminate the bridgehead was launched 
at 2245 the night of 9 September by two 
companies of the 37 Ih SS Panzer Grenadier 
Regiment, supported by fire from a third 
company of the same regiment. The at- 
tack marked the first mention in this 
action of this regiment's 4th Battalion. 
(The 1st Battalion had previously taken 
over defense of Forts Sommy and St. 
Blaise.) The attack proceeded satisfac- 
torily until shortly after midnight when 
it bogged down under heavy American 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



31 



small arms fire. The Germans intimated 
that they had failed because the Amer- 
icans were continually bringing new 
troops into the bridgehead. In addition 
to three battalions of the 37th SS Panzer 
Grenadier Regiment, the German units 
which figured in the Dornot bridgehead 
fighting were primarily the 282d Infantry 
Battalion {Battalion Voss), which had been 
holding the line extending south from the 
center of the horseshoe woods, the SS 
Signal School Metz {Battalion Berg), and the 
208th Replacement and Training Battalion, 
all under the control of Division Number 
462. (The 3d Battalion, 37th SS Panzer 
Grenadier Regiment, was apparently in re- 
serve and was not actively committed in 
this operation.) 46 

The Americans in the bridgehead 
could take few prisoners. Representa- 
tive of enemy refusal to surrender was an 
event in late afternoon of 9 September 
when approximately a platoon of Germans 
attacked Company F. Some twenty 
were killed with automatic rifle and rifle 
fire close to the defenders' foxholes; about 
five others dropped behind the bodies of 
their comrades. Feigning wounds, al- 
though still holding on to their weapons, 
the five would not respond when men of 
Company F called out for their surrender. 
Fearing what might happen after dark 
if the Germans were left so close to the 
forward foxholes, Company F had no 
alternative but to shoot them where they 
lay. 

A number of times the Germans tried 
another ruse: while a German officer 
shouted in English to "cease firing," a 
group of the enemy would form for a 
local assault to be launched during the 



* 37th SS Pz Grtn Rfgt Miscellaneous File; MS 
§ B-042 (Krause); MS # B-222 (Knobelsdorff). 



expected lull in American fire. The 
trick worked only once, and then only 
partially and to the enemy's disadvant- 
age, when the 1st Platoon, Company E, 
obeyed the command, only to realize 
when it was repeated that it was given 
with a foreign accent. Opening fire 
again, the platoon wiped out a group of 
fifteen to twenty Germans who had 
started an assault. 

On the west bank an enemy machine 
gunner, superbly camouflaged in a log- 
covered, well-sodded emplacement at the 
north end of the lagoon between the rail- 
road and the river, remained undetected 
from the day of crossing until 10 Septem- 
ber, providing continual harassment to 
troops at the crossing site. With the 
muzzle of his machine gun remaining 
within his emplacement while he fired 
through a nine-inch aperture, the Ger- 
man could not be located. Although at 
night he impudently sang German songs, 
the American troops still could not find 
him. His position was not neutralized 
until 10 September when it was placed 
under area fire by 60-mm. mortars, auto- 
matic rifles, and rifles of Company I, 
11th Infantry. 47 

In midmorning of 9 September the 
Company K commander, 1st Lt. Stephen 
T. Lowry, was killed in the bridgehead. 
The one company officer who had not 
yet been killed or wounded, 1st Lt. 
Johnny R. Hillyard, assumed command. 
Just after daylight the next morning, 
Lieutenant Hillyard too was killed. The 

47 Colonel Lcmmon had no troops to send to clear 
out west-bank opposition. In answer to a request 
for such aid, regiment sent either a company or a 
platoon (probably Company C, 11th Infantry) on 
this mission, but Colonel Lemmon noted no decrease 
in enemy fire. Interv with Lemmon; Statement, 
Capt Stanley R. Connor to OCMH, Jun 50, filed in 
OCMH. 



32 



THREE BATTLES 



1st sergeant, Thomas E. Hogan, took 
command of the company. 

Incidents of individual heroism con- 
tinued to be almost commonplace. In 
Company G Pvt. Dale B. Rex took over 
a machine gun on the left flank when its 
gunner was killed early on 9 September 
and manned it through the remainder of 
the battle. Near-by riflemen estimated 
that Private Rex killed "wave after wave" 
of Germans; "hundreds," said the grate- 
ful riflemen. In Company K, T/5 Wil- 
liam G. Rea, a medical aid man, ren- 
dered continuous first aid to the wounded 
despite machine gun and rifle fire. Once 
he crawled under fire 300 yards to reach 
a wounded man, returning unaided with 
the patient and walking erect through 
the small arms fire. Almost all officers 
in the bridgehead were soon either killed 
or wounded because they moved from 
their foxholes to encourage their men and 
direct improvements on the positions. 
Some men reported that their officers 
apologized to them for being wounded. 

The first night in the bridgehead the 
men dug slit trenches as fighting positions 
and later improved them, developing 
what some dubbed "mole holes," a fox- 
hole dug at one end of a slit trench. 
Because their weapons' fire blasts re- 
vealed the defensive perimeter, crews of 
Company H's 8 1 -mm. mortars abandoned 
their weapons and took up rifles from 
the dead and wounded to continue the 
fight. Even the rifle companies' 60-mm. 
mortars had to be shifted constantly to 
avoid revealing positions by fire blast. 

Communications proved to be a bright 
spot. Although radio became the sole 
means of communication, the SCR-300's 
worked almost perfectly, aided by the 
proximity of the bridgehead to the bat- 
talion command post in Dornot. When 



Company F's radio was battered by fire 
and Company G's lost and believed cap- 
tured, Company F joined in the use of 
Company K's radio and Company G 
shared Company E's. One SCR-300, 
which had been taken across with the 
men of the 23d Armored Infantry Bat- 
talion, had been almost immediately 
destroyed; but the forty-eight armored 
infantrymen, reduced to an even smaller 
number by continuing casualties, were 
soon virtually integrated into the rifle 
companies. Adequate replacement bat- 
teries for the SCR-300's were supplied 
satisfactorily at night. Even if the bat- 
teries had given out, communications 
personnel were prepared to switch the 
battalion SCR-284 to the same frequency 
as the company SCR-536's. No attempt 
was made to lay telephone wire across 
the river, but an adequate net existed on 
the west bank. A double trunk line from 
the 2d Battalion to the 11th Infantry 
command post was shot up so badly that 
repair was impossible and another line 
had to be laid. The 2d Battalion also 
had telephone connections with the 3d 
Battalion, its own aid station and obser- 
vation post, and the 23d Armored In- 
fantry Battalion. Although a line was 
laid the first night from the 2d Battalion 
CP to the crossing site, it was shelled out 
so quickly that replacement was not 
immediately attempted. 

The 1 1 th Infantry regimental observa- 
tion post during the action was in a 
former German bunker atop the hill 
mass just northwest of Dornot. A for- 
ward regimental command post was in 
another bunker a few hundred yards be- 
hind the observation post on the reverse 
slope of the hill. 48 



48 Interv with Morse. 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



33 




INFANTRYMAN AT FOOTBRIDGE OVER RAILROAD near Dornot. 
is carrying both a .30-caliber machine gun and a submachine gun M-3 {grease gun) . 



Soldier 



The supply performance of the first 
night was repeated the night of 9 Sep- 
tember by men of both the 2d and 3d 
Battalion Ammunition and Pioneer Pla- 
toons, even to manning the assault boats. 
Supply was under the direction of 2d Lt. 
Tyrus L. Mizer, 2d Battalion S-4.« 

49 Moselle River Crossing. With the 2d Battalion 
and Company K in the initial assault went the follow- 



The combined 2d and 3d Battalion aid 
station, un der Capt. John M. Hoffman, 

ing ammunition: 5,000 rounds with each light 
machine gun; 9,000 rounds with each heavy machine 
gun; and 100 rounds with each 60- and 8!-mm. 
mortar. Transported later were: 1,000 rounds of 
60- and 81-mm. mortar ammunition; 60,000 rounds 
of .30-caliber in machine gun belts; 13,000 rounds of 
.30-caliber in 8-round clips and 6,000 in 5-round 
clips for BAR's; 200 antitank "bazooka" rockets; 
200 rifle grenades; and 200 hand grenades. 



34 



THREE BATTLES 



2d Battalion surgeon, Capt. Emanuel 
Feldman, assistant regimental surgeon, 
and Capt. Panfilo C. Di Loreto, 3d Bat- 
talion surgeon, continued to operate in 
the cellars of Dornot. To assist evacua- 
tion, a casualty relay point was estab- 
lished, shifting from the railroad under- 
pass to the first house in the eastern edge 
of Dornot according to the vagaries of 
enemy shelling. Enemy fire was usually 
so heavy at the crossing site in daylight 
that litter bearers could not remain in the 
vicinity. Although medics made occa- 
sional trips to the site, many wounded 
had to make their way back alone as far 
as the railroad underpass. At approxi- 
mately 2300 the night of 9 September, 
four men of Collecting Company C, 5th 
Medical Battalion, 50 crossed by boat to 
the east bank, collected casualties from 
the bridgehead, and returned. As they 
were preparing to enter the boat for a 
second trip, a round from an enemy tank 
blew the craft from the water. Although 
infantrymen and aid men continued to 
get their wounded comrades across, theirs 
was the last actual evacuation from the 
bridgehead by w r est-bank medics. 

Enemy casualties were no doubt higher 
than American, but there was a steady 
attrition among the defenders, and no 
reinforcements were coming in to help. 
Although it was obvious to anyone who 
knew the local situation that the little 
perimeter could not hold out much longer, 
the defenders had the temerity on the 
morning of 10 September to call for 
German surrender. If the Germans did 
not capitulate, noted the War Diary of 
the 37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, the 
Americans promised to deliver such a 



60 T/5 Gearhart, T , 4 George C. Berner, Sgt Leo 
W. Phelps, and Pvt Ernest A. Angell. 



concentration of fire as their enemies had 
never seen before. 

Not long after this demand for sur- 
render, the commander of the 2d Battalion, 
37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, was 
killed by American mortar fire, and the 
commander of his 6th Company was 
wounded. Possibly because of these and 
other casualties, the German units on the 
north and northeast of the horseshoe 
woods made an unauthorized withdrawal 
to Jouy-aux-Arches but were ordered to 
return to their positions. Later the 2d 
and 4th Battalions of the regiment were 
formed into Kampfgruppe Ulrich and or- 
dered to defend Jouy-aux-Arches, ap- 
parently a continuation of a strange 
German preoccupation about the defense 
of the northern village. While the 
Americans throughout the action had 
been most concerned with the forts of 
the Verdun Group, the Germans on the 
ground had shown more concern about 
Jouy-aux-Arches. 51 

1st and 3d Battalions, 11 ih Infantry 

Since the original Dornot crossing on 
8 September, the 3d Battalion, 11th In- 
fantry, had continued to support the 
bridgehead from defensive positions 
astride the high ground south and west 
of Dornot. On 8 September its Com- 
pany K had crossed into the bridgehead. 
The 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry, which 
had originally been along the Moselle to 
the south near Arnaville, was relieved 
late on 8 September by elements of the 

51 37th SS Pz Gren Regt Miscellaneous File. Unless 
otherwise noted, this section is based on the following 
sources: Moselle River Crossing; Combat Interv 38 
with Sikes, Halverson; Eleventh Infantry; Fifth Infantry 
Division; 11th Inf AAR, Sep 44; Co K, 11th Inf, 
Morning Rpts, 9-10 Sep 44; Interv with Lt Col S. E. 
Otto (formerly actg S-3, 5th Div Arty), 5 May 50. 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



35 



10th Infantry and ordered to move to 
high ground northwest of Dornot in order 
to protect the left flank of the regiment. 
Despite casualties from heavy enemy 
shelling, the 1st Battalion by early morn- 
ing of 9 September had taken up positions 
extending generally from Dornot to the 
vicinity of Hill 366 to the northwest. 

The 11th Infantry still knew virtually 
nothing about what was opposing it on 
the north — the enemy position that 
turned out to be Fort Driant. Although 
Colonel Lemmon, 2d Battalion com- 
mander, had sent a small patrol in that 
direction early on 9 September, the patrol 
had not emerged from the woods and had 
not discovered Fort Driant. Late on 9 
September the 1st Battalion was ordered 
to send a patrol to investigate the area. 
A combat patrol from Company B went 
out that night, returning the next morn- 
ing with the 11th Infantry's first concrete 
information that a German fortification 
of some type existed on the regiment's 
north flank. 62 

Withdrawal at Dornot, 10-11 September 

With other elements of the 5th Infantry 
Division crossing the Moselle south of 
Dornot in the vicinity of Arnavilie, Gen- 
eral Irwin decided early on 10 September 
that the Dornot bridgehead could be 
withdrawn without undue hazard to the 
new crossing. Because radio silence was 
imposed on such a message, two volun- 
teers from Company I, 11th Infantry, 
Sgts. Arch H. Crayton and Frank Noren, 
swam the river in late afternoon to take 
the withdrawal order to Captain Gerrie, 
the bridgehead commander. Both ser- 
geants carried copies of the order in the 

55 Statement, Capt Connor to Hist Div; Interv with 
Lemmon. 



event one did not get through, but both 
made the trip safely and plans for evacua- 
tion were readied to go into effect at 21 1 5, 
10 September. That same evening at 
2000, the Germans, unaware of the 
Americans' impending withdrawal, issued 
an attack order for an all-out assault 
against the little bridgehead. Using all 
elements of the 37th SS Panzer Grenadier 
Regiment (except the 3d Battalion), plus 
supporting tanks and artillery, the attack 
was to jump off an hour and three quar- 
ters after the Americans were scheduled 
to begin their withdrawal. 

Supporting the American withdrawal, 
the engineers planned to use the few 
remaining leaky assault boats and a few 
rubber reconnaissance boats for removing 
the wounded, while ropes strung across 
the river were to aid the able-bodied. 
The reconnaissance boats were to be in- 
flated and carried during daylight from 
the bivouac area of Company C, 204th 
Engineers, to the edge of the woods atop 
the Dornot hills. After darkness they 
were to be carried by hand to the crossing 
site. A floating line, consisting of six 
rubber reinforcing inserts ("sausages") 
connected end to end with rope, was to 
be constructed as an added means of 
assisting the able-bodied. One platoon 
of Company C, 204th Engineers, was to 
continue its work at the crossing site 
while the remainder of the company 
readied equipment and brought it to the 
river. Also assisting at the crossing site 
was to be one platoon of Company C, 
7th Engineers. 

In preparation for the withdrawal, the 
3d Platoon, Company I, 11th Infantry, 
moved at midday to a position between 
Ancy-sur-Moselle and the crossing site, 
facing generally northeast. Its mission 
was to decrease the cross fire from the 



36 



THREE BATTLES 



bridgehead's left. The 2d Platoon was 
directed to take positions during the 
afternoon along the right of the lagoon to 
cover the bridgehead's right flank, while 
the 1st Platoon was directed to move soon 
after dark to positions along the riverbank 
near the northern edge of the lagoon. 
In the course of these movements during 
the afternoon, the Company I com- 
mander was seriously wounded and 1st 
Lt. Raymond W. Bitney assumed com- 
mand. 

The few officers and noncommissioned 
officers remaining in the bridgehead were 
to organize the operations on the east 
bank, withdrawal to be by swimming, 
boats, and expedient floats. All weapons 
and equipment were to be thrown into 
the water. Guides were to be posted in 
the rear of Dornot to direct the men to 
an assembly area where hot food, coffee, 
and clothes would be available. Not 
only was the bridgehead to be evacuated 
but also the entire area around the cross- 
ing site and Dornot, because Colonel 
Lemmon felt that once the Germans be- 
came aware of American withdrawal 
they would plaster the west bank with 
shellfire. American artillery, which 
would continue to fire its usual defensive 
fires around the bridgehead perimeter, 
was to increase in intensity upon a green 
flare signal to be fired by 1st Lt. Richard 
A. Marshall, Company I, as soon as the 
evacuation was complete. Upon the 
signal, the artillery was to concentrate 
on the horseshoe woods and the area 
between the woods and the enemy forts 
in the hope of catching enemy troops 
that would almost certainly move in as 
soon as the evacuation was discovered. 

The 2d and 3d Platoons, Company I, 
effectively neutralized enemy small arms 
fire on the crossing site during the after- 



noon, but at the cost of a number of killed 
and wounded by the enemy's artillery 
reaction. About 2100 the 1st Platoon, 
Company I, with Lieutenant Marshall, 
the two platoons of engineers, and a few 
men from the 2d Battalion Ammunition 
and Pioneer Platoon, who brought with 
them nine litters, reached the river at the 
crossing site. There was miraculously 
no shelling at the site itself. Along the 
road between the railroad and Dornot, 
however, the engineers of Company C, 
204th, who were transporting the recon- 
naissance boats, ropes, and reinforcing 
inserts, were subjected to heavy shelling 
and thus delayed in reaching the river 
until approximately 2200. But already 
the withdrawal had begun with three 
bullet-riddled assault boats and one rope. 

Men on the east bank assembled in 
the aarkness at the crossing site, where 
loading of wounded was supervised by 
Captain Gerrie. The able-bodied shed 
their equipment and clothes and began 
to make their way individually across the 
river, by swimming, by holding to the 
one available rope, or by utilizing buoy- 
ant devices such as empty water cans or 
ammunition tins. Although the river 
was only about ninety yards wide and 
six to seven feet deep, the water was 
intensely cold and the current swift, and 
many men were drowned. Others were 
saved from drowning by the strength and 
courage of their companions. Some 
men, like Private Rex of Company G and 
T/5 Rea of Company K, made a number 
of trips to assist other swimmers. An F 
Company officer, 1st Lt. James E. Wright, 
was seen to make one crossing and go 
back to assist others, but he was not heard 
from again. Many men arrived in the 
rear assembly area completely naked. 

Since the reconnaissance boats had not 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



37 



yet arrived, transporting the wounded 
was a slow process. One of the three 
assault boats was swamped at the cast 
bank on its first trip when too many men 
crowded into it. In the other two, the 
profusion of bullet holes made constant 
bailing necessary. Discipline in loading 
was generally excellent, but at one point, 
when Captain Gerrie left to search the 
woods for others, a group of men became 
panic stricken. They were forced back 
into loading formation by 1st Lt. Ross W. 
Stanley, Company G, assisted by Ser- 
geant Hembree, Company E, and T. Sgt. 
George A. Gritzmacher, Company K. 
Only when the 204th Engineers arrived 
and put the rubber reconnaissance boats 
and floating reinforcing inserts into 
operation about 2230 did the evacuation 
of wounded speed up appreciably. 

As the last boatloads of wounded were 
leaving the far bank, Lieutenant Marshall 
and his communications sergeant, armed 
with the important green flare for calling 
down the prearranged fires of the sup- 
porting artillery, crossed to the east bank 
to determine that no men had been left 
behind. (Many men were so exhausted 
that they went to sleep while waiting 
their turn in the boats.) Already Lieu- 
tenant Stanley, Company G, who was in 
the last boat, had made a last-minute 
check, but Lieutenant Marshall could not 
be satisfied until he himself had investi- 
gated. Lieutenant Stanley's boat pushed 
out into the stream, leaving Lieutenant 
Marshall and his communications ser- 
geant alone on the east bank. One or 
two German tanks came down to the 
river's edge, firing point-blank across the 
river at the withdrawal activity. While 
Lieutenant Marshall and the sergeant 
hugged the ground to avoid detection, 
one enemy shell hit a boat carrying men 



of Company H, just in front of that of 
Lieutenant Stanley, ripping away the 
front of the boat. A number of Com- 
pany H's missing personnel were pre- 
sumed to have been in that boat. 

With Lieutenant Marshall and his 
communications sergeant still on the east 
bank and the last boatloads of evacuees 
and crews leaving the water on the west 
bank, an enemy signal flare went up. 
By coincidence, the enemy flare was 
green. Knowing that no matter who 
had fired the green flare, the American 
artillery would soon respond, Lieutenant 
Marshall and his communications ser- 
geant hurriedly pushed out into the river 
in their rubber reconnaissance boat. 
The artillery did respond quickly, but 
only two shells fell short in the river. 
The little rubber boat and its occupants 
went unharmed. 

This green flare had not only called 
down American artillery fire but possibly 
German fire as well, for in the enemy 
attack order issued earlier use of a green 
flare was to mean "shift fire forward." 
The presence of German tanks, use of the 
green flare, and re-establishment of con- 
tact between Jouy-aux-Arches and Corny 
before daylight the next day indicated 
that the Germans had launched their 
all-out attack as planned, only to find 
that the little American bridgehead had 
been withdrawn, unwittingly, with only 
minutes to spare. 

Despite precautions to see that no men 
were left in the bridgehead, at least one 
man, Pvt. Joseph I. Lewakowski, Com- 
pany G, had either fallen asleep or lost 
consciousness in his foxhole about fifty 
yards from the river. He awoke the next 
morning just as day was breaking. 
Climbing from his covered foxhole to 
find himself alone, he "walked across 



38 



THREE BATTLES 



dead Germans from his foxhole to the 
river bank." (These German dead may 
have been casualties from American ar- 
tillery fire called down by the German 
signal flare.) Pulling himself across the 
river by the ropes, which had been left 
in position on the chance that someone 
might have been left behind, Private 
Lewakowski made his way to the rear 
and rejoined his company. 53 

In the assembly area after the with- 
drawal, the first estimate of bridgehead 
losses could be made. Company K, 
which had reinforced the 2d Battalion in 
the horseshoe perimeter, emerged from 
the three-day battle with no officers and 
only fifty men. The three rifle com- 
panies of the 2d Battalion had only two 
officers among them, and their total 
casualties numbered over 300. The 23d 
Armored Infantry Battalion, which had 
fought on both sides of the river, likewise 
suffered severely and sustained 200 cas- 
ualties in its four days of action. In the 
five days following the withdrawal, evacu- 
ation of combat exhaustion cases soared 
in all units. 54 



53 This section based on the following sources: 
Moselle River Crossing; Combat Interv 38 with 
Sikes, Halverson; Combat Interv 38 with Engineer 
Officers on Bridgehead Operations (hereafter cited 
as Combat Interv 38 with unidentified engr offs); 
Eleventh Infantry; Fifth Infantry Division; 23d Armd Inf 
Bn, CCB, 11th Inf, 19th FA Bn AAR's and Unit 
Jnls, Sep 44; 23d Armd Inf Bn, 2d Bn, 11 th Inf, Cos 
I and K, 11th Inf, Morning Rpts, Sep 44; Intervs 
with Lemmon and Lemmon-Yuill; Attack order, 
37th SS Pz Gren Regt, 10 Sep 44, found in 37th SS Pz 
Gren Regt Miscellaneous File. Regimental records 
of the 37th SS Pz Gren Regt cannot be found. Al- 
though the 37th SS Pz Gren Regt Miscellaneous File 
makes no mention of the German attack, the diary 
concerns itself only with the 2d Battalion, whose role 
in this attack was passive and which would thus con- 
ceivably not mention the details of the attack. 

yi Morning Rpts, which did not list a casualty until 
it was unquestionably determined, sometimes as late 
as a month after it occurred, show the following 



The Dornot bridgehead fight had been 
primarily an infantry-artillery battle with 
armored commitment limited to the 
Germans. Company C, 818th Tank 
Destroyer Battalion, with two platoons in 
firing positions near Dornot, did little 
firing except for ten rounds on 9 Septem- 
ber at two enemy tanks near the east- 
bank town of Corny; one tank was be- 
lieved hit. Company B, 735th Tank 
Battalion, waiting for a bridge to be built 
before joining the fight, did no firing. 
Air support, although requested many 
times during the battle, was not furnished 
until the last day, 10 September, when 
P-47's of the 23d Squadron, 36th Fighter 
Bomber Group, XIX Tactical Air Com- 
mand, made four raids on Forts St. 
Blaise and Sommy, dropping twelve 250- 
pound bombs and twenty-three 500-pound 
bombs. Later investigation showed that 
the bombs caused no structural damage 
on the heavy forts. 55 



figures for the period 7-15 September 44. It is the 
opinion of the historian that most of the casualties 
occurring during the Dornot fight were recorded 
during this period, that the large number of nonbattle 
casualties was a direct result of the bridgehead battle, 
and that the units concerned suffered few, if any, 
casualties between 10 and 15 September. 











Non- 




KIA 


MIA 


WIA 


batllc 


23d Armd Inf Bn 


1 


55 


159 


25 


2d Bn, 1 1th Inf 


40 


28 


172 


219 


Cos I & K, 11th Inf 


11 


5 


74 


69 


three engr cos 


3 


2 


62 


20 


Total * 




55. 


90 


1 467 


333 



* F.xr lusive of artillery forward observer parties. 



« 818th TD Bn, 735th Tk Bn, AAR's, Sep 44; 
XIX TAC Opns File, 8-10 Sep 44. For an excep- 
tionally detailed study of bomb damage on Fort St. 
Blaise, see report of The United States Strategic 
Bombing Survey, Fort St. Blaise, Verdun Group, 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



39 



On 1 1 September the 2d Battalion and 
Company K moved to division reserve in 
an assembly area near Gorze where they 
began to absorb replacements in men and 
equipment. The 23d Armored Infantry 
Battalion reverted to its parent organiza- 
tion, CCB, 7th Armored Division, moving 



Metz, France, copy filed in OGMH. "Bombs less 
than 2,000 lbs. caused no material damage and 2,000 
lb. bombs only caused damage when penetration 
into the concrete was gained or a very near miss 
occurred. Near misses produced some spalling from 
the concrete walls." Page 1. 



for rest and reorganization to the vicinity 
of les Baraques, just west of Gorze. 56 

It had been a costly fight at Dornot 
against a determined enemy. Without 
reinforcements the men had been unable 
to consolidate or expand their bridgehead. 
They had nevertheless held against al- 
most staggering odds until ordered to 
withdraw. Just how much their holding 
had affected the try for another bridge- 
head south of Dornot at Arnaville is 
apparent in a study of that later crossing. 

36 1 ith Inf, 23d Armd Inf Bn, AAR's, Sep 44. 



CHAPTER II 



The Crossing at Arnaville 

(10-11 September) 



Late on 8 September, the day of the 
Dornot crossing, General Irwin had or- 
dered the commander of the 10th Infan- 
try, Col. Robert P. Bell, to force a second 
crossing of the Moselle approximately 
two and a half miles south of Dornot, 
near the village of Arnaville. (See Map 
| General Irwin took this step after 
having decided that the Dornot bridge- 
head was too rigidly contained to be 
exploited successfully. Already during 
late afternoon the 3d Battalion, 10th 
Infantry, had moved into defensive posi- 
tions, relieving the 1st Battalion, 11th 
Infantry, astride the high ground west of 
the river in the vicinity of Arnaville. 
Assigning the 1 0th the mission of crossing 
the river and securing the high ground 
north of the village of Arry, General 
Irwin had set the date of crossing for 10 
September but had left the exact hour 
and site to the discretion of the regimental 
commander. 1 

Early on 9 September Colonel Bell 
went forward with his reconnaissance 
party to Arnaville, a tiny village just west 
of the railroad track that paralleled the 
Moselle. Finding that the area had not 

1 Unless otherwise noted this section is based on the 
following sources: Moselle River Crossing; Irwin 
Diary; Combat Interv 38 with unidentified engr offs; 
Tenth Infantry; Fifth Infantry Division; 10th Inf, 5th 
Div, 1103d Engr (C) Gp, AAR's and Unit Jnls; 
author's visit to area, Jun 49; Ltr, Col Bell to Hist 
Div, 5 Apr 50. 



been completely cleared of the enemy, 
the party divided into two patrols and 
made its way to the river. Parallel to 
the railroad track and the river the Amer- 
icans came upon a deep canal, which 
could be expected to complicate later 
bridging operations. They found how- 
ever, that infantry could cross at a lock 
in the canal. Although approximately 
200 yards of open, marshy land extended 
between the canal and the river, at one 
place a tree-shaded trail provided con- 
cealment to the water's edge. The river- 
bank itself was suitable for launching 
assault boats. Detailed engineer recon- 
naissance could not be made until later, 
but it appeared that a suitable bridge 
site existed where a military bridge had 
been constructed and later destroyed by 
the French Army in the campaign of 
1940. On the near bank the two hills 
flanking Arnaville on the north and south 
covered the Bayonville-Arnaville ap- 
proach road and provided direct-fire 
positions for supporting the assault. 
Arnaville was approximately one mile 
south of the larger west-bank village of 
Noveant and approximately two and a 
half miles north of another west-bank 
village, Pagny-sur-Moselle, in the XII 
Corps zone. 

Beyond the river was another stretch 
of some 500 yards of open, marshy flat- 
land. A network of trails through it led 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



41 



to Voisage Farm at the intersection of 
the Arry road with the Metz-Pont-a- 
Mousson highway. From the north- 
south Metz highway, the ground rose 
abruptly to dominating east-bank hills. 
To the reconnaissance party, two of these, 
Hill 386 in the Bois des Anneaux and the 
wooded Cote de Faye (Hills 325, 370, 
and 369) seemed to offer natural de- 
fensive positions and were later assigned 
as battalion objectives. On the maps 
used by the reconnaissance party, Hill 
325 on the Cote de Faye appeared 
wooded. In reality it was a bare knob 
exposed to direct fire from Forts Sommy, 
St. Blaise, and Driant. Although Colo- 
nel Bell realized that the dominant 
terrain feature in the area was Hill 396, 
one thousand yards east of Hill 386, he 
felt that he could not expect his two 
assault battalions to take and hold this 
hill the first night. Also impressed with 
the consideration that up to this time no 
attempt to establish a bridgehead across 
the Moselle had succeeded, except the 
tentative foothold now held at Dornot, 
Colonel Bell recognized that the success 
of his regiment was mandatory and he 
did not want to assume more than he 
could accomplish. 

Southeast of Voisage Farm on the steep 
slopes of the east-bank hills stood the 
village of Arry, and northwest of the Cote 
de Faye and beside the river, the village 
of Corny. Another factor of terrain 
which was to prove important was the 
convergence in the vicinity of the crossing 
site in the Moselle valley of two defiles 
from the west, at Arnavillc and at 
Noveant, and a shallow draw leading 
from Voisage Farm to a saddle between 
Hills 369 and 386. 

Returning about 1400 to his command 
post in Chambley, Colonel Bell issued his 



attack order to his regiment and its usual 
combat team elements: the 46th Field 
Artillery Battalion (105-mm. howitzers); 
Company B, 7th Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion; Company B, 818th Tank De- 
stroyer Battalion (with one platoon of 
Reconnaissance Company, 818th, at- 
tached) ; Company B, 735th Tank Bat- 
talion; and Collecting Company B, 5th 
Medical Battalion. Also available to 
assist the river crossing by ferrying and 
bridging was the 1 103d Engineer Combat 
Group, including the 551st Heavy Ponton 
Battalion, which was prepared to con- 
struct the bridge. Thirteen field artillery 
battalions were available to furnish sup- 
porting fire. 2 Designating the hour of 
crossing as moonrise, 0055, 10 September, 
Colonel Bell ordered his 1st Battalion to 
lead the assault and capture Hill 386 in 
the Bois des Anneaux. The 2d Bat- 
talion was to follow at 0400 and capture 
the Cote de Faye (Hills 325, 370, and 
369). The 3d Battalion was initially to 
hold its positions on the high ground in 
the vicinity of Arnaville, support the 
operations by fire as called for by the 
assault battalions, and protect the cross- 
ing site. Assault boats were to be 
manned at the outset by Company B, 
7th Engineers, which was to be assisted 
in later ferrying operations by the 204th 
Engineer Combat Battalion of the 1103d 
Engineer Combat Group. Since Colonel 
Bell's attack plan depended upon sur- 
prise, the engineers were to make no 
preparations or further reconnaissance 



! 5th Div Arty: 19th, 21st, 46th, and atchd 284th 
(the 50th and atchd 241st were in support of the 2d 
Inf to the north); Corps Arty: 695th and 558th (5th 
FA Gp; the 274th, also a part of the 5th FA Gp, was 
in support of the 2d Inf); 270th, 277th, and 739th 
(203d FA Gp); and 177th, 773d, and 943d (204th 
FA Gp); plus CCB, 7th Armd Div, Arty: 434th Armd 
FA Bn. 



42 



THREE BATTLES 



before dark except to assemble sixty 
assault boats and crews in covered posi- 
tions in the vicinity of Arnaville. The 
artillery plan, prepared with the advice 
of Lt. Col. James R. Johnson, 46th Field 
Artillery Battalion commander, called 
for no preparatory fires unless the crossing 
was detected. Although guns would lay 
on preparation fires across 1,200 yards 
of front beyond the river, the only officer 
who could call for them was the artillery 
liaison officer with the 1st Battalion, 
Capt. George S. Polich. Check concen- 
trations on almost every possible point 
of difficulty were available on call by any 
officer. One platoon of both Cannon 
Company and Antitank Company was 
attached to each rifle battalion and was 
to cross by ferry or bridge, whichever was 
first available. Company B, 735th Tank 
Battalion, was ordered to cross as soon 
as the bridge could be completed, while 
Company B, 818th Tank Destroyer Bat- 
talion, was to move after dark to hull- 
down positions on the bare hills north 
and south of Arnaville, prepared to en- 
gage enemy tanks and vehicles beyond 
the river. An innovation in the Third 
Army was due for a test in support of the 
crossing: the 84th Chemical Smoke 
Generator Company was ordered to 
initiate at daylight a front-line large-area 
smoke screen around the crossing site as 
protection against German observation. 
This project would be a new combat 
experience for all concerned, including 
the chemical troops. The regimental 
command post was to be at Vandelain- 
ville, west of Bayonville. 

Battalion Preparations 

The 1st Battalion commander was 
evacuated with vellow jaundice a short 



while before the attack order was given, 
and the executive officer, Maj. Wilfrid 
H. Haughey, Jr., assumed command. 
Issuing a warning order to his companies 
and directing them to a forward assembly 
area at Villecey-sur-Mad, near Waville, 
Major Haughey left with his S-3, com- 
pany commanders, and artillery liaison 
officer to reconnoiter the crossing site. 
There he made his attack plans: the 
advance was to be made in column of 
companies, A, C, D, Battalion Head- 
quarters, and B. Once across the river 
the same formation was to be followed, 
using two power-line clearings on the 
skyline as guides to the objective, Hill 
386. Company A was then to swing 
left, eventually to tie in with the 2d 
Battalion, whose objective was the C6te 
de Faye, including Hill 369, to the north. 
Company C was to swing right, pushing 
out on the southern nose of Hill 386 in 
the direction of Arry. Company B was 
to dig in along the western edge of the 
woods on the rear slope of the hill, 
mop up any resistance bypassed, and 
guard the right flank and rear against 
any enemy countereffort from Arry. 
With each of the two assault companies 
was to be a platoon of heavy machine 
guns of Company D. The men were to 
carry with them a full canteen of water, 
all ammunition possible, and three units 
of K ration. A rear battalion command 
post was to be maintained initially in 
Arnaville. 

When the battalion officers returned 
to Villecey about 1700, enough daylight 
hours remained to permit the platoon 
leaders to go to Bayonville, where they 
obtained a brief and distant view of the 
objective; but there was no time to give 
the noncommissioned officers or riflemen 
even that much of a reconnaissance. Al- 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



43 




ARRY. Road with gooseneck curve out of Arry in upper left of photograph leads to the 
Voisage Farm. The southwest slope of Hill 386 is visible in upper right. 



though most of the men of the 1st Bat- 
talion were veterans of one river crossing 
(the Seine), they were aware of the 
terrific pounding from artillery and 
counterattacks which the 11th Infantry's 
Dornot bridgehead was receiving and 
sensed that this crossing would prove 
more difficult than their crossing of the 
Seine. 

Meanwhile, the commander of the 2d 
Battalion, Maj. William E. Simpson, had 
taken his company commanders and staff 
to the hill south of Arnavillc, overlooking 



the crossing site, and had decided to 
launch his attack also in column of com- 
panies. After the scheduled crossing at 
0400, Company F, in the lead, was to 
advance past Voisage Farm and move 
up the shallow draw between its objective 
and Hill 386. Then it was to turn left 
(north) and follow the ridge line of the 
Cote de Faye to take, in turn, Hills 369, 
370, and 325. Following was to be 
Company G and then Company E, the 
latter assigned the mission of mopping 
up in the battalion's rear and on its left 



44 



THREE BATTLES 



flank. One machine gun platoon of 
Company H was to be attached to each 
of the two forward companies, and the 
81 -mm. mortar platoon was to follow 
Company G. An advanced command 
post was to accompany Major Simpson 
at the head of Company E. 

The problem of getting adequate maps, 
the lack of which had plagued command- 
ers since the start of the Metz campaign, 
was finally resolved, even as the 1st and 
2d Battalion troops prepared to move 
toward the river. Photomaps on a 
1 :25,000 scale were received at 2300 the 
night of 9 September. 3 

The Assault Crossing 

Met on the west bank of the Moselle 
Canal by guides from Company B, 7th 
Engineers, the leading squads of the 1st 
Battalion, those of Company A, crossed 
the canal footbridges and reached the 
crossing site at approximately 0035. The 
company having been previously divided 
into assault boat parties, there was one 
guide for each of twenty boats, numbered 
1 through 20, which were supposed to be 
waiting with their assigned engineer 
crews. But the engineers were not yet 
ready, and it was 0115 before loading 
began. As the boats pushed out into 
the water, enemy outposts along the far 
bank fired a few scattered rounds from 
their rifles, but there were no casualties 
and no delay. On the far shore the 



* This section based on the following: Moselle 
River Crossing; Tenth Infantry; 10th Inf Unit Jnl, 
9 Sep 44; Combat Interv 38 with Simpson, Capt 
John L. Lynch, arty In off, and Capt John H. 
Lathrop, CO, Co E, 2d Bn, 10th Inf (hereafter cited 
as Combat Interv 38 with Simpson-Lynch-Lathrop); 
Interv with Lt Col William M. Breckinridge (for- 
merly Ex Off, 10th Inf), 30 Mar 50; and Ltr, Col 
Bell to Hist Div. 



company commander, Capt. Elias R. 
Vick, Jr., reorganized his men and by 
0200 was ready to move toward the ob- 
jective. In the meantime, the engineers 
returned to the west bank and began 
transporting men of Company C. By 
the time Company A had reorganized, 
two platoons of Company C were also 
across the river. 

Company A's movement across the flat 
tableland toward the north-south Metz 
highway and Voisage Fa rm brought the 



enemy to life. {Map 2) Machine guns 



raked the bottom land and the crossing 
site, and mortars began to find the range. 
Although a red enemy signal flare went 
up, enemy artillery reaction was slow; 
it was not until daybreak that the first 
artillery concentrations began to fall. 
This delay was probably due to poor 
enemy communications — brought about 
by shortages in personnel and equipment 
— so poor that sometimes it took several 
hours for a message from troops in the 
Moselle valley to reach higher head- 
quarters in Metz. 4 The 2d and 3d 
Platoons of Company A deployed and 
advanced in the face of machine gun fire, 
still inaccurate, to the north-south high- 
way. Here, more accurate fire from a 
machine gun at the Voisage Firm cross- 
roads enfiladed the road and pinned the 
men to the ditches on either side. When 
2d Lt. Karl Greenberg, 2d Platoon 
leader, made his way toward the cross- 
roads to locate the enemy gun, he was 
fired upon and wounded. The company 
commander, Captain Vick, moving to 
the highway in an attempt to get his 
assault platoons in motion again, was hit 
by the machine gun fire. He died of 
wounds before he could be evacuated. 



< MS # B-042 (Krause). 




CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 

10 September 1944 

Axis of advance 
lllll'lllll Assault Cos positions wnEh finst 

STOPPED It ENEMY FIRE 

t)m\in]})u\ po&itioms reached by ObOo hquns 
Axis of German counterattack 

Go/dour mltfrot SO miters 

1000 o 1000 



MAP 2 



46 



THREE BATTLES 



Back at the crossing site, darkness 
and enemy fire had brought confusion. 
Ready to cross with his two remaining 
platoons, the Company C commander, 
Capt. William B. Davis, could find engi- 
neer crews for only six of the twenty 
assault boats. While he was searching, 
the executive officer of Company D, 1st 
Lt. Francis L. Carr, took part of his men 
across, his own troops manning the boats. 
When the boats were returned to the 
west bank, Captain Davis followed Lieu- 
tenant Carr's example and manned the 
boats with his infantrymen. Qnce on 
the far shore, the officers attempted re- 
organization, but the enemy fire had 
prompted the men to crouch behind a 
six-foot protecting bank, and here Com- 
panies C and D became intermingled in 
the darkness. Before they could move 
out, Company B was also landed. 

Finally succeeding in reorganization, 
Company C pushed forward and took 
cover alongside a stone wall that sur- 
rounded a small orchard at the northwest 
corner of the Voisage Farm crossroads. 
The 81 -mm. mortars of Company D were 
set up in a sunken road along the river's 
edge. The battalion commander, Major 
Haughey, had crossed with Company C, 
and while Company B waited near the 
river Major Haughey and his S-2, 1st Lt. 
Leo E. Harris, advanced to the highway. 
Here they made contact with the Com- 
pany A commander, 2d Lt. Warren G. 
Shaw, who had succeeded Captain Vick. 
With daylight fast approaching, Major 
Haughey was well aware that permitting 
his battalion to be caught under observa- 
tion on the exposed flatland would be 
virtual suicide. Meanwhile, Company 
F, leading element of the 2d Battalion, 
already delayed in its crossing by the 1st 
Battalion's late start, had crossed the 



river and come up behind Company A. 
Its commander, Capt. Eugene M. Witt, 
was impatient to get off the tableland and 
onto his objective before daylight and 
wanted to push through Company A. 

While Companies A and C were stalled, 
they returned the enemy fire, making 
good use of rifle grenades and 60-mm. 
mortars. The 1st Battalion artillery 
observer, 1st Lt. George Dutko, utilizing 
the previously registered check concen- 
trations, secured 199 rounds of artillery 
fire, one concentration of which wiped 
out the crew of a 75-mm. antitank gun 
at a gooseneck curve in the Voisage 
Farm-Arry road. 

Sending his S-2, Lieutenant Harris, to 
reconnoiter quickly for the most favorable 
route to Hill 386, Major Haughey readied 
Companies A and C for a combined 
assault designed to carry the battalion to 
its objective. When Lieutenant Harris 
found what he believed to be an avenue 
of approach, he delayed no longer. As- 
sembling one near-by platoon each of 
Companies A and C, in the growing light 
he led a dash past Voisage Farm and up 
the hill. When the platoons jumped off, 
they met little fire of any sort, but the 
distance and ascent were too great to 
permit such a pace all the way to the 
crest. The men paused at the western 
edge of the woods to reorganize and were 
joined as they waited by the 2d Platoon 
of Company C. 

Since the remainder of Company A 
had not moved, Captain Witt directed his 
Company F to pass through. Streaming 
through a gap in a low wall east of the 
road, the leading platoon under 1st Lt. 
Andrew H. Paulishen was stopped tem- 
porarily by two enemy machine guns. 
A barrage of hand grenades dispatched 
the enemy, and the advance continued. 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



47 



Generally following the trail that led east 
up the Voisage Farm draw, Company F 
turned north upon coming abreast of 
Hill 369, its first objective. The re- 
mainder of Company A, having at last 
begun to move, had followed Company 
F, and then turned to the south through 
the woods to reach the crest of Hill 386. 

To the southeast, on the reverse slope 
of Hill 386, Lieutenant Harris, with one 
platoon of Company A and two of Com- 
pany C, completed reorganization and 
began moving again toward the crest. 
Although the men encountered a small 
German force, which they engaged with 
"marching fire and bayonets," 5 their 
advance to the crest was virtually unim- 
peded. At approximately the same time, 
S. Sgt. William J. Stone of Company D 
arrived at the crest from the north with a 
section of heavy machine guns. Having 
followed closely behind Company F until 
Company F turned north to Hill 369, 
the machine gun section had chased a 
small enemy force from the northern part 
of the crest. Immediately afterward the 
men began to dig in their weapons. 
Closely following them came 1st Lt. 
Robert B. Guy, also of Company D, and 
Lieutenant Dutko, the artillery observer, 
who began to reconnoiter for machine 
gun and mortar positions and observation 

5 Although the term "marching fire and bayonets" 
became an RTO bromide and each instance of its 
use must be examined skeptically, the anonymous 
author of 7 entk Infantry notes it in this instance and 
is supported by Colonel Breckinridge. See Interv 
with Breckinridge. See also A Combat Narrative — 
Crossing of the Moselle River by the Tenth Infantry 
Regiment of the 5th Infantry Division (hereafter cited 
as 10th Infantry Combat Narrative), copy in OCMH 
files through courtesy of Lt Col Alden P. Shipley 
(formerly CO, 3d Bn, 10th Inf). Neither Colonel 
Shipley nor Maj. Stanley Hays (formerly Executive 
Officer, 3d Battalion, 10th Infantry) believes that 
bayonets were used. Interv with Shipley and Hays, 
26 Apr 50. 



posts. The remainder of Company C 
soon joined its two leading platoons and 
began to dig in on the exposed southern 
nose of the hill, overlooking Arry to the 
southwest. The remainder of Company 
A, greatly disorganized after the fight at 
the highway and the climb through the 
woods, went into position on the left near 
Sergeant Stone's machine guns, but no 
contact was made with the 2d Battalion 
defenses to the north. Company D's 
81 -mm. mortars were set up on the left 
rear. 

Shortly before 0830, Company B, still 
coming up from the river bottom, had 
passed the Voisage Farm crossroads when 
its 3d Platoon, bringing up the rear, 
noticed a German tank approaching from 
the north along the Metz highway. 
Taking cover, their bazooka team ready 
to fire, the men of the platoon saw the 
tank advance to the crossroads and halt. 
Although the bazooka team attempted to 
fire, its rocket did not discharge. The 
tank commander opened his turret, how- 
ever, and the 3d Platoon guide shot him 
in the shoulder. Buttoning up quickly, 
the tank fired two rounds over the heads 
of the platoon. Just at that moment an 
enemy artillery concentration fell near 
the crossroads, and the tank sped back 
toward Corny. Meanwhile, Company 
B's 1st Platoon, seeing a Mark V tank 
advancing from the outskirts of Arry, 
took cover in abandoned foxholes along 
the Arry road. The Mark V pulled back 
into the town without firing. The pla- 
toon, followed by the rest of the company, 
then continued up the slope of Hill 386. 
A short vvhile later the men saw the Mark 
V tank return, run over the foxholes 
where the 1st Platoon had been hiding, 
and retreat once more into Arry. By 
1000, Company B had taken positions 



11.11 ^ 




OBJECTIVES OF THE 2D BATTALION, 10th Infantry Regiment, in the Cote de 
Faye area. Large wooded area in the center is the Bois de Gaumont. Highway in foreground 



Hill I "M 



H.ll 




/fflA to Corny and Metz on the left and to Pont-a-Mousson on the right. Moselle River can 
be seen in lower left corner. 



50 



THREE BATTLES 



from the right flank of Company C atop 
the southern crest of Hill 386 down the 
slope to an orchard not far from the edge 
of town. A patrol of one squad from the 
3d Platoon, sent to investigate Arry, re- 
turned with the report that at least a 
platoon of German tanks and some in- 
fantry occupied the town. 

The men of Company C had been as- 
signed positions on the exposed southern 
nose of Hill 386. About 0830, in the 
midst of their efforts to dig into the rocky 
soil, a platoon of enemy infantry appeared 
to the right front, evidently having 
emerged from Arry. As the enemy 
platoon began to move in, Pfc. Wilbur 
H. Dodson, a light machine gunner on 
the right flank with the 1st Platoon, 
opened fire, accounting for most of the 
enemy before he himself was killed. 
Thus ended the first attempt by the 
Germans to recover the hilltop. It was 
only the first prick of the thorn which 
Arry was to become in the flesh of the 
bridgehead. 6 

The 2d Battalion Crossing 

Although enemy mortar fire continued 
to fall around the crossing site after the 
1st Battalion crossing, Company F, lead- 
ing the 2d Battalion, had begun its move 
in assault boats at 0430, only slightly 
behind schedule. Its boats were manned 
by Company B, 204th Engineers. Clos- 
ing up behind Company A where it was 
stalled along the Metz highway, Captain 
Witt, Company F commander, finally 
passed his company through just at day- 

6 Both this section and the section following are 
based on the following sources: Moselle River Cross- 
ing; Tenth Infantry; 10th Inf AAR, Sep 44; 10th Inf 
Unit Jnl, 9-10 Sep 44 (from which most times of 
action were determined); Combat Interv 38 with 
Simpson-Lynch-Lathrop; Interv with Breckinridge. 



break. The unit moved up the Voisage 
Farm draw until it was opposite Hill 369 
and then turned north toward its objec- 
tives. Three fourths of the way up the 
hill, Lieutenant Paulishen's lead platoon 
had a brief engagement with a small 
force of entrenched enemy infantry, but 
otherwise the movement was uncon- 
tested. Passing initially along the for- 
ward edge of the Bois de Gaumont on 
Hill 369 and then just east of a trail that 
marked the crest of the ridge line, the 
company advanced quickly to Hill 370 
and continued north toward Hill 325. 
Finding Hill 325 to be a bare, exposed 
knob, Captain Witt halted his company, 
and the men began to dig in along the 
eastern and northwestern edges of the 
woods where they had unrestricted fields 
of fire against Hill 325. 

Close behind the leading company 
came Company G, its movement uncon- 
tested. Its men began to dig in across 
the eastern and southeastern brow of Hill 
370 under cover of the woods. The 
company's left flank was at a jagged 
clearing in the woods on the southern 
nose of Hill 370 and its right flank on 
the southern slope of Hill 369, the com- 
pany front thus extending almost a 
thousand yards. Because the distance 
to be covered was so great, the men were 
forced to spread their foxholes thin; even 
the closest were more than ten yards 
apart. 

When Company E came forward be- 
hind Company G, its 3d Platoon was 
moved into the gap caused by the jagged 
clearing between the two forward com- 
panies. Two squads of the 2d Platoon 
went through the woods to the left rear 
to check for enemy stragglers and then 
dug in to the left rear of Company F's 
left flank. The remainder of Company 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



51 



E was held in reserve on the reverse slope 
of Hill 370. One platoon of heavy 
machine guns of Company H was em- 
placed with Company F's left flank on 
the northwest; another was with Com- 
pany G's left flank at the jagged clearing. 
The 81-mm, mortars were set up within 
that part of the clearing which extended 
to the reverse slope of Hill 370. Major 
Simpson's battalion headquarters was 
also dug in on the hill's reverse slope in 
the woods. 

Through the day, enemy action against 
the 2d Battalion was confined to scattered 
and occasional mortar and artillery fire 
until just at dusk a platoon of enemy 
tanks cruised across the bald crest of Hill 
325, apparently in a reconnaissance 
move. Men of the 2d Battalion held 
their bazooka fire, although some opened 
up with small arms. When American 
artillery concentrations were called for 
and received, the enemy tanks withdrew. 

Counterattack From Any 

While men of the 1st Battalion were 
still preparing their defensive positions 
in the rocky soil of Hill 386, at approxi- 
mately 1230 shells from German tanks 
began to burst in the fir trees above 
Company C's command post at the 
southern edge of the woods. The com- 
mand group was badly hit: the radio 
operator was killed and the company 
commander, Captain Davis, was wounded 
in both legs. Three Tiger tanks soon 
appeared on the bare southern slope of 
the hill from the direction of Arry. Fol- 
lowed soon by two other tanks, they 
moved diagonally across the front of 
Company C's right platoon (the 1st), 
firing as they went. The 1st Platoon's 
bazooka team opened fire but without 



success, its rockets seeming to bounce off 
the heavy armor. The tanks pushed on, 
closing to within a hundred yards of the 
foxhole line. Cruelly exposed in their 
shallow holes, the men were ordered by 
1st Lt. Carl E. Hansen, 1st Platoon, and 
1st Lt. Issac H. Storey, 2d Platoon, to 
fall back to the tree line. Once they 
reached the woods, tree bursts from the 
tank guns brought even heavier casualties 
and confusion, and many men continued 
down the rear slope. The wounded 
company commander, Captain Davis, 
remained in action, calling for artillery 
and mortar support to stop the tanks. 
He would not give up until he finally 
collapsed and was started back on a 
stretcher, only to be hit a second time by 
shell fragments and killed. 

Although no enemy infantry were ob- 
served, the lead tank commander opened 
his turret and waved, as if to signal sup- 
porting infantry forward. An automatic 
rifle team shot the enemy tanker, and by 
this time supporting mortar and artillery 
fire was falling. If enemy infantrymen 
were scheduled to follow, they did not, 
despite the confusion in the ranks of 
Company C. 

In the meantime two more German 
tanks emerged from Arry and advanced 
toward the Company B positions along 
the Arry-Voisage Farm road. About 
seventy-five rounds of shellfire caused 
heavy casualties in Company B's 3d 
Platoon and command group, and a 
break-through threatened. T. Sgt. Wal- 
ter E. Jenski of Company B followed 
alongside one of the tanks on the road, 
firing rifle grenades at its treads. When 
that effort failed, he tossed a hand 
grenade at the turret. Despite his failure 
to knock out the tank, the tenacity of 
Company B's 1st and 2d Platoons 



52 



THREE BATTLES 



prompted the two tanks to pull back into 
Arry, and the break-through was averted. 

Although Company C had suffered 
heavily and was disorganized, the Ger- 
man tanks on the hill pushed no farther 
forward, moving on instead across the 
front of the battalion where they faced 
Company A. The men of Company A 
were careful to take advantage of the 
concealment offered by the woods in 
their area, and the enemy tanks soon 
ceased fire, although still remaining just 
outside effective bazooka range in front 
of the positions. Meanwhile Company 
C tried to reorganize. Its executive 
officer, 1st Lt. Eugene N. Dille, having 
assumed command after the company 
commander's death, sent one squad back 
to the original positions to outpost them 
and observe for further action, a second 
squad to regain contact with Company 
B, and a third to guard the company 
command post. Then Lieutenant Dille 
searched the reverse slope for others of 
the company. Learning that many of 
the men had retreated all the way to 
Voisage Farm, he eventually succeeded 
in locating about eighty and sending 
them back to their former positions. 

This reoccupation of the open slope 
prompted the German tankers to return 
to action, and again the infantry had 
little protection on the exposed nose of 
the hill. But, in almost movie-like tradi- 
tion, American P-47's suddenly entered 
the battle. They bombed and strafed 
the tanks, dangerously close to the fox- 
holes, but successfully. One bomb ap- 
peared to bounce as it hit the ground and 
skidded to within a few yards of a group 
of Company A men, but it did not 
explode. In the face of the planes, the 
German tanks at last withdrew. 

The intervention by the P-47's, a part 



of the XIX Tactical Air Command, was 
the first positive response to numerous 
previous infantry requests for air support 
in the Moselle battle. Early on 9 Sep- 
tember the Ninth Air Force had ruled 
that the XX Corps attack could be 
adequately supported by artillery. But 
that evening reports of a steadily worsen- 
ing situation reached the G— 3 air officer 
at 12th Army Group headquarters. 
He therefore had authorized the release 
of as many fighter-bombers from the 
primary target at Brest as the commander 
of the XIX TAC should deem necessary 
for adequate bridgehead support. Al- 
though the XIX TAC still had many 
responsibilities — -bombing at Brest, at- 
tacking with the XII Corps at Nancy, 
protecting the. Third Army's exposed 
southern flank, and flying cover for heavy 
bombers over Germany — P-47's were 
made available. The planes that arrived 
at such an opportune time at Arry were 
from the 406th Fighter Bomber Group 
and had been vectored from a ground 
support mission in the Nancy area. 
They claimed fifteen enemy tanks de- 
stroyed. Besides assisting the 1st Bat- 
talion to repel the tanks, the planes 
bombed and strafed the enemy assembly 
point of Arry, leaving much of the town 
in flames. The only other air support 
of the day in the local bridgehead area 
was that of the 23d Squadron, 36th 
Group, which bombed Forts Sommy and 
St. Blaise in the Dornot bridgehead area. 

Reports of the seriousness of the tank 
counterattack against the 1st Battalion 
had reached the 10th Infantry command- 
er, Colonel Bell, about 1335. There- 
upon he ordered his 3d Battalion, still in 
position astride the west-bank hills flank- 
ing Arnaville, to leave Companies L and 
M in place and prepare to cross Com- 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



53 



panics I and K in order to capture Arry. 
While these preparations took place, the 
1st Battalion set about reorganizing its 
lines. The Company A executive officer, 
1st Lt. William H. Hallowell, who had 
been on the west bank organizing sup- 
plies, was sent forward to take command 
of Company A, which Lieutenant Shaw 
had been commanding since the original 
company commander's death soon after 
the river crossing. Collecting some sixty 
Company A men from where they had 
taken cover on the reverse slope, Lieu- 
tenant Hallowell moved to his company's 
positions on the battalion's left and re- 
organized them. The 2d Platoon was 
placed on the right, the 1st Platoon in 
the center, and the 3d on the left flank, 
echeloned to the left rear to protect the 
battalion's left flank and the heavy ma- 
chine guns and mortars of Company 
D. The battalion commander, Major 
Haughey, then ordered Company B to 
move from its right-flank positions facing 
Arry and take over the Company C 
sector. This time the area designated 
took advantage of the concealment of 
the woods. Company C was then as- 
sembled at the western edge of the woods 
on the reverse slope and prepared to 
follow the 3d Battalion into Arry after 
its capture. Its mission was to establish 
road blocks with a platoon of antitank 
guns which were to be ferried across the 
river after dark. Despite the havoc 
caused initially by the enemy's noon 
counterattack, the 1st Battalion had 
actually given up only the practically 
untenable positions on the bare southern 
nose of Hill 386. 

The Germans launched no more coun- 
terattacks against Hill 386 during the 
afternoon, but shellfire and long-range 
machine gun fire harassed the men there 



for the rest of the day. A counterattack 
elsewhere was attempted soon after the 
1st Battalion action when both tanks and 
infantry headed south from Corny, evi- 
dently in an effort to cut off the bridge- 
head at its base. With artillery observers 
and tank destroyer crewmen enjoying 
perfect observation from the west-bank 
hills, this enemy effort was doomed from 
the start. Company B, 818th Tank 
Destroyer Battalion, claimed one of the 
German tanks destroyed, and the others 
fell back on Corny. 7 

Through the first three days in the 
bridgehead battle, the supporting field 
artillery and tank destroyers received 
firing data from the forward companies 
through both forward observer and in- 
fantry radios that were in direct com- 
munication with a regimental set atop 
the regimental command post in a school- 
house in Vandelainville. An operator 
at the regimental set relayed the informa- 
tion by telephone to the command post 
where the 46th Field Artillery Battalion 
commander, Colonel Johnson, was con- 
stantly on duty. The regimental com- 
mander felt that one slip in this communi- 
cation system and a failure to get 
artillery fire at the precise moment 
needed would mean that his precarious 
bridgehead would be wiped out. 8 

In the Dornot bridgehead action, the 
Americans had experienced the initial 
good fortune of attacking on the bound- 
ary line between two German battalions. 
In the Arnaville action, that initial good 

7 This section based on the following sources: 
Moselle River Crossing; Tenth Infantry; 10th Inf, 
818th TD Bn, 46th FA Bn, AAR's, Sep 44; 10th Inf 
Unit Jnl, 10 Sep 44; Fifth Infantry Division; Cole, 
The Lorraine Campaign, Ch. Ill, p. 143, citing Ninth 
AF Opns Jnl, 9 Sep 44; XIX TAC Opns File, 10 
Sep 44. 

s Ltr, Col Bell to Hist Div. 



54 



THREE BATTLES 



fortune had been even greater: the 
boundary between the German XIII SS 
Corps on the north and the XLVII 
Panzer Corps on the south ran just north 
of Voisage Farm. This line also divided 
the 282d Infantry Battalion, attached to 
Division Number 462, on the north and the 
8th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, a unit of the 
3d Panzer Grenadier Division, on the south. 
The infantry battalion was charged with 
the defense of the Cote de Faye and the 
panzer grenadiers with defense of Voisage 
Farm, Arry, and Hill 386. The counter- 
attack against Hill 386 was launched by 
elements of the 8th Panzer Grenadier Regi- 
ment, supported by attached tanks. 9 

The 3d Battalion Attacks Arry 

In accordance with Colonel Bell's 
order at 1335, his 3d Battalion com- 
mander, Maj. Alden P. Shipley, had left 
Companies L and M in defensive posi- 
tions on the west- bank hills flanking 
Arnaville. Companies I and K moved 
to the river, crossing about 1735 at the 
same site as the other two battalions. 
The infantrymen took with them extra 
amounts of ammunition and extra ba- 
zookas and deposited them on the east 
bank to create a bridgehead stockpile. 

With Company K on the left of the 
Voisage Farm-Arry road and Company 
I on the right, the advance moved past 
the former Company B positions facing 
the town and held up briefly on the out- 



9 Morning Sit Rpt, Army Group G, 1 1 Sep 44, found 
in Army Group G KTB 2, Anlagen 1 .IX. -30. IX .44; 
MS # B-042 (Krause); MS § B-412 (Einem). Colo- 
nel Kurt von Einem was chief of staff of XIII SS 
Corps. The exact location of the boundary is not 
definite, but this deduction is based on prisoner of 
war information in 5th Division Unit Journal File, 
10-11 September 1944, and a captured German map 
reproduced in Tenth Infantry. 



skirts while P-47's and artillery bom- 
barded the objective. Then the rifle 
companies continued against virtually no 
resistance, ferreting the enemy from 
houses and cellars where he had sought 
cover from the bombardment. The 
Americans fired antitank grenades at 
three German tanks that were seen fleeing 
to the east toward Lorry, but the grenades 
bounced off and the tanks escaped. The 
town was cleared by 2130, and the regi- 
mental commander, Colonel Bell, ordered 
the companies to pull back to Voisage 
Farm: the 10th Infantry's lines were too 
extended and an open flank at Corny 
and a dangerous route of entry between 
Hills 369 and 386 necessitated a bridge- 
head reserve. Returning to Voisage 
Farm, the companies dug in, there to 
remain for several days, subjected to 
murderous enemy shelling. 

Since Colonel Bell expected the 1st 
Battalion to hold Arry, and the 1st Bat- 
talion's plan was for Company C to 
establish road blocks within the town, 
either the withdrawal order was prema- 
ture or Company C was late in moving in. 
In any event, it was 0300 when Company 
C headed into Arry. Advancing in 
column, led by the company commander, 
Lieutenant Dille, and the 3d Platoon 
leader, 1st Lt. Ralph R. Cuppeli, the 
depleted company marched down the 
main street. Lieutenant Dille saw two 
Germans approaching. Motioning for 
his men to hold their fire, he waited until 
the Germans came closer and then he 
himself fired, killing one. The other 
German quickly returned the fire, wound- 
ing Lieutenant Cuppeli and killing Lieu- 
tenant Dille. 10 Although T. Sgt. Robert 

10 This account of Lieutenant Dille's death is taken 
from Moselle River Crossing which is based on con- 
temporary interview information. It is supported 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



55 



M. Johnson killed the German before he 
could cause further casualties, it was 
obvious that the enemy had reoccupied 
the town after the 3d Battalion's depar- 
ture. 11 

The wounded Lieutenant Cuppeli gave 
orders for his platoon to withdraw, and 
the entire company followed in a mad 
scramble to escape. Reaching the fields 
to the north, Lieutenant Storey, the 2d 
Platoon leader, managed to restore order. 
He took command of the company and 
moved it back to the northern edge of 
the village, where the men began digging 
in. At 0430 heavy artillery fire, pre- 
sumed to be both American and German, 
blanketed the area. With his handful 
of men diminished even more, Lieuten- 
ant Storey wanted to withdraw. He 
finally established communication with 
his battalion commander, and the com- 
pany was withdrawn about 0800 the 
next morning (11 September) to the 
vicinity of the 1st Battalion command 
post on the reverse slope of Hill 386. 
Here again the men came under intense 
enemy shelling and suffered further 
casualties. On Lieutenant Storey's re- 
quest, the company was moved to defen- 
sive positions on the left flank of Company 
A on Hill 386; now the company's 
strength was only forty- three men. 

The 1st Battalion's 57-mm. antitank 
guns and its attached platoon from Anti- 
tank Company, which were scheduled 
to be part of the road block defenses in 
Arry, were ferried across the river during 
the night, but already Companies I and 

by Interv with Hays, 26 Apr 50, but is contrary to 
the account in Tenth Infantry and to Interv with 
Breckinridge. 

11 The 3d Panzer Grenadier Division claimed to have 
"recaptured" Arry at 0200. Morning Sit Rpt, Army 
Group G, 1 1 Sep 44, found in Army Group G KTB 2, 
Anlagen 1 .IX.-30.IX.44, 



K had withdrawn to Voisage Farm. 
Since the antitank guns could not be 
moved into Arry, they were hand-carried 
to positions on the right flank of Com- 
pany B on the southwestern slope of Hill 
386 where they could cover the town and 
the Arry- Voisage Farm road. The two 
remaining companies of the 3d Battalion 
(Companies L and M) and Major Ship- 
ley's 3d Battalion headquarters crossed 
the Moselle at approximately 1900. 
Battalion headquarters and the heavy 
weapons company moved to Voisage 
Farm to become a part of a bridgehead 
reserve even before Companies I and K 
withdrew from Arry to join them, and 
Company L went into a secondary de- 
fense covering the potentially dangerous 
Voisage Farm draw between the 1st and 
2d Battalions. Another platoon of 57- 
mm. guns from Antitank Company went 
into position near the north flank of the 
bridgehead, covering Corny, and the 3d 
Battalion's antitank guns, ferried across 
during darkness, 1 1 September, were dug 
in just southeast of Voisage Farm to cover 
the road south to Arry. 12 

The 11th Infantry Enters the Arnaville Fight 

About noon of 10 September, General 
Irwin, his plans already formulated for 
evacuating the 11th Infantry's Dornot 
bridgehead during the night, had ordered 
that the 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry, 
under Maj. William H. Birdsong, cross 

12 This section based on the following: Moselle 
River Crossing; Tenth Infantry; Fifth Infantry Division; 
10th Inf AAR, Sep 44; 1 0th Inf Unit Jnl, 10-11 Sep 
44; Combat Interv 38 with Shipley, Capt John J. 
McCluskey, Co K, Capt Frank L. Bradley, Co M, 
and Capt Dale W. Baughman, arty In off, 3d Bn, 
10th Inf (hereafter cited as Combat Interv 38 with 
Shipley-McCIuskey-Bradtey-Baughman); Ltr, Col 
Bell to Hist Div; Ltr, Col Shipley to Hist Div, 15 
Mar 50; Interv with Shipley and Hays. 



56 



THREE BATTLES 



the Moselle, capture Corny, and protect 
the north flank of the Arnaville bridge- 
head. The battalion was badly depleted: 
its Company K was already a part of the 
hard-pressed Dornot bridgehead and its 
Company I was heavily engaged support- 
ing the Dornot crossing from the west 
bank. Even should the battalion wait to 
cross until after the scheduled nighttime 
evacuation of the Dornot bridgehead, 
Companies I and K would not be able 
to join the new crossing, so diminished 
and fatigued were they from the intensive 
Dornot fight. To strengthen the 3d 
Battalion, Company B of the 11th Infan- 
try was attached. 13 

Since the original Arnaville 'crossing 
area was congested with the movement 
of the 3d Battalion, 10th Infantry, arid 
the lOth's supporting units, Major Bird- 
song's battalion was ordered to recon- 
noiter for another crossing site near by. 
With his reconnaissance party the bat- 
talion commander crossed the Moselle 
Canal paralleling the river just southeast 
of Noveant on the debris of a demolished 
footbridge. Finding the terrain wooded 
between the canal and the river and 
informed by an attached engineer officer 
that he could construct a footbridge across 
the canal in time for the crossing, Major 
Birdsong chose this site. Because ferry- 
ing operations were to begin soon after 
dark at the original Arnaville site, 
arrangements were made with the 10th 
Infantry for transporting the battalion's 

13 3d Bn, 1 1th Inf, story is from the following: 
Moselle River Crossing; 10th Inf, 11th Inf, 1103d 
Engr (C) Gp, 160th Engr (C) Bn, AAR's, Sep 44; 
10th Inf and 1 1th Inf Unit Jnls, 10-11 Sep 44; Tenth 
Infantry; Combat Interv 38 with Birdsong; Interv 
with Breckinridge; Ltr, Col Birdsong to Hist Div; 
Interv with Coghill; Ltr, 1st Lt Rocco J. Barbuto 
(formerly plat ldr, AT Co, 1 1th Inf) to Hist Div, 
3 May 50, and atchd statement from Cpl Emidio 
Di Pietro (2d Plat, AT Co, 1 1th Inf). 



antitank platoon, the attached 2d Platoon 
from Antitank Company, 11th Infantry, 
and radio and litter jeeps to the far shore. 
There they would join their parent bat- 
talion in the vicinity of Voisage Farm. 
Upon crossing, the 3d Battalion, 11th 
(less Companies I and K, plus Company 
B), was to be attached to the 10th In- 
fantry. Crossing was scheduled for 0200 
(11 September). 

Construction of a footbridge across the 
canal took longer than anticipated, with 
the result that the 3d Battalion's leading 
company, Company L, was two hours 
late in getting started. The assault 
boats, manned by troops of the 160th 
Engineers, were finally pushed out into 
the darkness on the river, the men of 
Company L taking with them a telephone 
and laying wire as they went. With 
Company L presumably landed on the 
far shore, the engineers returned. Com- 
pany B was loading when the Company 
L commander, Capt. Robert H. Williams, 
telephoned that his men had disembarked 
only to find that they had landed on an 
island in the river. Neither previous 
map nor ground reconnaissance had 
revealed the presence of this small, high- 
banked island, and aerial photographs 
had not been available. Since Captain 
Williams deemed the east bank beyond 
the island unfit for a landing, the assault 
boats had to be sent back to retrieve the 
company. In view of the short period 
of darkness remaining, Major Birdsong 
secured permission to cross his battalion 
at the 10th Infantry's Arnaville site. 

While this mishap was taking place, 
the battalion's Antitank Platoon, radio 
and litter jeeps, and the attached 2d 
Platoon, Antitank Company, 11th In- 
fantry, had been ferried across the river 
by the 10th Infantry at Arnaville. Al- 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



57 



though the organic Antitank Platoon and 
radio and litter jeeps waited for their 
battalion near Voisage Farm, the platoon 
sergeant of the attached platoon, T. Sgt. 
Harry O. Chafin, deduced that the rifle- 
men had already preceded him to Corny. 
Moving with its 57-mm. guns, the platoon 
pushed north up the Metz highway and, 
unsuspectingly, into German-held Corny. 
In the quick, violent fire fight that fol- 
lowed, most of the antitank platoon 
escaped, including eighteen men who 
swam the river; left behind were the 
antitank guns and eight men. 14 Sergeant 
Chafin led the survivors back toward the 
Arnaville crossing site and this time lo- 
cated his battalion. He insisted upon 



14 As told by Corporal Di Pietro, in a statement 
attached to Lieutenant Barbuto's letter to the His- 
torical Division llnote 13l above'). the platoon neared 
Corny and took cover while Sergeant Chafin moved 
forward to reconnoiter. He returned shortly and 
directed the platoon to continue on the highway 
toward Corny. Arriving in the south edge of Corny, 
the men took cover in a brick foundry and a garage 
on opposite sides of the street. When "things did 
not look good," Sergeant Chafin ordered the men to 
withdraw, bringing with them the 57-mm. guns and 
prime movers. As the men loaded, "hell broke 
loose," Because much of the enemy fire seemed to 
come from a near-by house, the men put one gun 
into action and fired several rounds into the house. 
For a while the enemy was silent, and again the men 
attempted to load on their carriers. But again the 
enemy opened fire. Seeing that the situation was 
hopeless, Sergeant Chafin ordered his men to abandon 
guns and trucks and head for the river. Corporal 
Di Pietro ran through the garage, out a back door, 
and slid down an embankment. Working his way 
south under concealment of bushes, he encountered 
five other men of the platoon. When the Germans 
began to encircle them and to toss concussion gre- 
nades down the embankment upon them, Corporal 
Di Pietro was wounded in the right leg above the 
knee. Soon thereafter the six were forced to sur- 
render and with two other men also captured were 
headed toward the enemy rear. One of his com- 
panions was forced to carry the corporal on his back. 
While the seven others went on to prison camps, 
Corpora] Di Pietro was taken to a front-line German 
hospital, where his right leg was amputated. 



returning to rescue his men and guns but 
collapsed as the battalion advanced 
toward Corny. 

Not until after daylight, about 0825 
(11 September), did the leading elements 
of the 3d Battalion, 1 1th Infantry, succeed 
in crossing at the Arnaville site. {Map 
I 3)\ They immediately reorganized and 
pushed slowly north toward Corny, Com- 
pany L on the right, Company B on the 
left, against occasional artillery and 
mortar fire. Company L advanced up 
the bush-covered northwestern slopes of 
the Cote de Faye (Hill 325} and began 
to dig in where the men could cover the 
open northwestern slopes and have at 
least visual contact with the 2d Battalion, 
10th Infantry, to the southeast. Com- 
pany B, breaking a thin crust of German 
ground defense south of Corny, advanced 
to the town's outer buildings. There it 
found one of the 57-mm. antitank guns, 
damaged beyond use, and took up posi- 
tions in and around an old brick factory 
on the edge of town. By 1 700 the Amer- 
icans had captured forty prisoners. The 
Reconnaissance Platoon and the Ammu- 
nition and Pioneer Platoon established 
outposts on the northwestern slope of 
Hill 325 between Companies L and B, 
while the heavy weapons of Company D 
were distributed among the advance posi- 
tions. In late afternoon Company C, 
11th Infantry, was also attached to the 
3d Battalion, crossed the river, and went 
into a reserve position on the slope near 
the highway to the left rear of Company 
L. The battalion's organic Antitank 
Platoon with its 57-mm. guns went into 
position echeloned in depth astride the 
highway south of Corny. Depth in 
antitank defense was considered essential 
because there was a logical avenue for 
tank attack not only down the Corny 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



59 



highway but also across the Cote de Faye 
and down the northern woods line of the 
Bois de Gauraont. 

By nightfall the 3d Battalion was well 
dug in. Its original order to capture 
Corny was not followed, despite some 
objection from the 10th Infantry, after 
the battalion commander, Major Bird- 
song, discovered the dominant observa- 
tion the Germans would have on defenses 
within the town. The Germans had 
also sown the town with mines and booby 
traps, further discouraging the 3d Bat- 
talion's entry. 

Counterattacks Against the 
10th Infantry — // September 

Having made probing attacks on 10 
September which evidently determined 
the locations of the 1st and 2d Battalions, 
10th Infantry, the Germans struck vio- 
lently against both battalions just before 
daylight the next morning (11 Septem- 
ber). The battles to hold against these 
counterblows assumed even more impor- 
tance with knowledge that the Dornot 
bridgehead had now been withdrawn 
and the Arnaville bridgehead was the 
only footing the XX Corps possessed on 
the Moselle's east bank. On the right 
flank of the XII Corps a small foothold 
did exist at the tip of the Moselle tongue; 
and south of Nancy assault units of two 
divisions were forming for a predawn 
crossing attempt. But holding at Arna- 
ville was vital, and at the time the 
Germans launched their counterattacks 
the infantry situation was made even 
more precarious because the supporting 
engineers had not yet been able to bridge 
the river. Of this handicap, the enemy, 
still holding dominant observation, was 
probably aware. 



About 0500, at the first sign of light, 
a platoon of German tanks, followed by 
approximately a company of infantry 
(elements of the 115th Panzer Grenadier 
Regiment), came from the direction of the 
town of Vezon toward that portion of 
the 2d Battalion lines which rimmed the 
edge of the Bois de Gaumont along Hill 
370. Without artillery preparation but 
firing their 88-mm. tank guns and ma- 
chine guns as they advanced, the tanks 
attempted to pulverize the defenses of 
Company F. They then pulled off to 
Company F's right front to provide fire 
support while accompanying infantry 
closed in. With the defenders pinned 
to their positions by the supporting fire, 
the German infantry worked in close, 
and fighting raged at hand-grenade 
range. One enemy grenade knocked 
out a Company H machine gun on Com- 
pany F's left flank. Forward elements 
of Company F began to fall back some 
fifty yards; but the enemy was apparently 
unaware of impending success, for the 
attack rolled around to the front of 
Company G, attempting to turn the 
corner of the woods into the jagged 
clearing. Here the Germans set up 
machine guns, and for a few minutes the 
situation looked almost hopeless; the 
Americans' difficulty with radio com- 
munication had prevented their receiving 
artillery support. Gapt. Lewis R. Ander- 
son, however, the Company G com- 
mander, managed to reach the corner of 
the woods and co-ordinated the fire of 
a near-by section of heavy machine guns, 
his riflemen, and the 81 -mm. mortars. 
Their efforts broke the enemy attack. 
Communication with supporting artillery 
was finally established, and, as the enemy 
infantry withdrew, heavy concentrations 
fell on the German rear. The tanks too 



60 



THREE BATTLES 



were discouraged by this fire. Except for 
a small enemy infantry contingent that 
probed up the draw on Company G's 
right flank southeast of Hill 369, the 
counterattack was ended. The probing 
effort on the right flank was stopped when 
Company G's light machine guns annihi- 
lated a squad of the attackers. 

With the counterattack broken, Com- 
pany F mopped up small groups and 
individuals who had infiltrated around 
the left flank, and another platoon of 
Company E was sent forward to take 
position between Companies F and G. 
Although the line had held, the enemy 
counterattack had cost the 2d Battalion 
slightly over a hundred casualties, further 
stretching the battalion's overextended 
manpower. 

At approximately the time of the coun- 
terattack against the 2d Battalion, ele- 
ments of the 3d Panzer Grenadier and 17th 
SS Panzer Grenadier Divisions launched a 
two-pronged attack against the 1st Bat- 
talion, 10th Infantry, on Hill 386. On 
the 1st Battalion's left front, some 500 
yards beyond Company A's forward fox- 
holes, stood a group of barrack-type 
buildings which were not shown on the 
battalion's maps. The first day in these 
positions, Lieutenant Dutko, the forward 
artillery observer, had turned the fire of 
240-mm. howitzers and eight-inch guns 
on the buildings, only to find that they 
concealed an underground radar station 
and underground barracks. All build- 
ings except one were destroyed. From 
the ruins, as daylight came on 1 1 Septem- 
ber, emerged an estimated company and 
a half of German infantry. With artil- 
lery support ready on call, Company A 
held its fire, allowing the Germans to 
come in close, out of the cover of occa- 
sional trees and into the company's 



effective lanes of fire. Some of the 
enemy had advanced to within twenty- 
five yards of the forward foxholes when 
Company A, its supporting artillery, and 
Sergeant Stone's machine guns of Com- 
pany D opened fire. The attack was 
quickly broken; most of the Germans fell 
as casualties and fifteen were taken 
prisoner. 

At the time that the infantry attack 
was discovered, a platoon of German 
tanks emerged from an orchard just east 
of Arry and advanced north toward the 
Company B positions on the southern 
portion of Hill 386. The oncoming 
tanks fired directly into the defenders' 
foxholes. Calls for artillery brought im- 
mediate results, and the American tank 
destroyers on the high ground west of 
the river also opened fire. With the 
Germans still threatening, the 57-mm. 
antitank guns in position with Company 
B opened fire, their first rounds knocking 
out one of the tanks. The antitank 
crewmen claimed another kill but ad- 
mitted it might have resulted from artil- 
lery or tank destroyer fire. The remain- 
ing enemy tanks concentrated their fire 
against the 57-mm. guns, destroying one 
and, since the guns had not been dug in, 15 
making it impossible for the other crews 
to operate. But the tanks had been 
discouraged by the reaction and with- 
drew to cover among the houses in Arry. 
Later in the day, planes of the 512th 
Squadron of the XIX TAC descended 
again on Arry. Their bombing and 
strafing knocked out some ten German 
tanks and assault guns, thus probably 
making a major contribution to the fact 
that the Germans launched no further 
ground attacks against either the 1st or 



15 46th FA Bn AAR, Sep 44. 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



61 



the 2d Battalion during the remainder 
of 11 September. 16 

Supporting the Bridgehead 

German artillery fire had first opened 
against the bridgehead at dawn on 10 
September. During the afternoon of the 
next day it increased in tempo, and ar- 
tillery observers estimated that forty fixed 
German batteries and numerous roving 
guns, ranging in caliber from 88-mm. to 
150-mm., were firing on the Arnaville 
sector. Since the larger portion of the 
German batteries was in concrete fortifi- 
cations, American counterbattery fire 
was not very effective. Despite the com- 
manding heights held by the Germans, 
most of their fire against the crossing site 
was apparently unobserved, possibly be- 
cause of an area smoke screen being 
maintained at Arnaville by the 84th 
Chemical Smoke Generator Company. 17 
In the forward areas the enemy fire was 
definitely observed and caused numer- 
ous infantry casualties, notwithstanding 
American efforts to provide overhead 
cover for foxholes and emplacements. 
Artillery observers felt that the Germans 
here demonstrated considerably more 
artillery skill than usual, and no ammu- 
nition shortage was indicated. Using 
single rounds of smoke or time fire to 
obtain a deflection correction, the enemy 
usually followed with five minutes of 
heavy fire for effect. Although no time 

16 This section based on the following: Moselle 
River Crossing; Tenth Infantry; 10th Inf, 46th FA 
Bn, AAR's, Sep 44; 10th Inf Unit Jnl, 11 Sep 44; 
Combat Interv 38 with Simpson-I.ynch-Lathrop and 
Shipley-Bradley-McCluskey-Baughman; Cole, The 
Lorraine Campaign, Ch. Ill, p. 149, citing XIX TAC 
Morning Summary, 12 Sep 44; IPW Rpt, 10th Inf 
Unit Jnl File, 1 1 Sep 44. 

" For details of smoke operations see below, 
IChapter IIlTI 



fire for effect was noted, many shells 
burst in the trees. 18 

A sometimes alarming shortage in 
American artillery ammunition had de- 
veloped. This shortage was chronic 
through all Third Army artillery units in 
early September, a result of the same 
logistical difficulties that had brought the 
gasoline drought. On 9 and 10 Septem- 
ber XX Corps artillery units had fired 
a total of about 20,000 artillery rounds 
per day, eating heavily into their allot- 
ment. They were now forced to curtail 
drastically their counterbattery and har- 
assing fire. Again, as at the time of the 
gasoline shortage, the soldier fighting for 
his life found it difficult to understand 
these logistical difficulties. Fortunately, 
air support was able to take over some of 
the artillery missions, 41 1 sorties by planes 
of the XIX TAC on 1 1 September being 
almost equally divided between the Brest 
and Moselle fronts. Only one mission 
directly affected the Arnaville bridge- 
head, that of P-47'sof the 492d Squadron, 
48 th Fighter Bomber Group, which 
damaged a gun position 3,000 yards 
southeast of Metz and destroyed a dam 
on the Moselle just southeast of Ars- 
sur-Moselle. 19 Despite the ammunition 
shortage, the thirteen field artillery bat- 
talions in position to support the Arna- 
ville crossing fired, on 10 and 11 Septem- 
ber, a total of 12,774 rounds, most of 
them in support of the bridgehead. 20 

Supply of the bridgehead during the 
first two days was handled primarily by 

is 46th FA Bn AAR, Sep 44. 

» XIX TAC Opns File, 1 1 Sep 44, and Cole, The 
Lorraine Campaign, Ch. Ill, p. 149, citing XIX TAC 
Morning Summary, 12 Nov 44. For more informa- 
tion on the Moselle dam see below. C h. Ill, section 
entitled I" Armor Crosses at the Ford."l 

2(1 Combat Interv 38, Artillery on the Arnaville 
Crossing (hereafter cited as Arnaville Artillery). 



62 



THREE BATTLES 



Service Company, 10th Infantry, the 
Ammunition and Pioneer Platoons of the 
battalions, and the Mine Platoon of the 
10th Infantry's Antitank Company. The 
infantry claimed that these units had 
virtually replaced the engineers in the 
task of ferrying rafts and assault boats. 21 
On the first day of the Arnaville cross- 
ing, S. Sgt. James O'Connell, Company 
B, 10th Infantry, trying to find a place 
for his jeep to cross the Moselle Canal, 
met a local French girl. Pointing to a 
spot in the canal, she beckoned the 
sergeant to follow, raised her skirts, and 
waded into the water. The water was 
shallow, and the sergeant found that he 
could cross on what he described as a 
"submerged concrete bridge." 22 In this 
manner kitchen trucks also crossed the 
canal and were ferried across the river 
late on 1 1 September, thus making at 
least one hot meal daily available to 
troops in the bridgehead after the first 
day. Although some supply and medical 
jeeps were ferried across, mud and steep 
slopes made their use impracticable east 
of the Metz highway, and vehicles oper- 
ating on the flatlands were constantly 
exposed to observed enemy shelling. One 
platoon of Cannon Company, 10th In- 
fantry, had originally been attached to 
each of the rifle battalions, but delay in 

21 Ltr, Col Bell to Hist Div; Tenth Infantry; Interv 
with Breckinri dge. For details on bridging opera- 
tions see below, [Ch, 111,1 

22 Ltr, Col Bell to Hist Div. 



ferrying operations had prompted the 
regimental commander to make other 
dispositions of the organic howitzers. 
All six guns were placed on the hill south 
of Arnaville where they continued to fire 
in support of the bridgehead infantry 
until the bridgehead was secured. 

When the rifle companies clamored for 
more bazookas to assist in fighting enemy 
tanks, the 10th Infantry's Headquarters 
Company rounded up forty-nine addi- 
tional rocket launchers and sent them into 
the bridgehead. Communications per- 
sonnel laid eight telephone lines, exclusive 
of artillery lines, into the bridgehead 
during the first two days. Although at 
one time all eight lines were knocked out 
by enemy shelling, communications per- 
sonnel continued to work under shell- 
fire until communications were working 
smoothly again. All three of the 10th 
Infantry's battalion aid stations were set 
up in one of the few buildings in the 
bridgehead: the farmhouse at the Voisage 
Farm crossroads. Through incessant ar- 
tillery fire on the flatlands leading to the 
river, casualties were evacuated by jeeps 
to the crossing site after having been 
carried by litter from the forward lines 
to the aid station, often by their infantry 
comrades. 23 



23 Tenth Infantry; Ltr, Col Bell to Hist Div; Capt 
Ferris A. Kercher, Personal Experience of a Cannon 
Company Commander, MS for Advanced Officers' 
Class I, The Infantry School, copy filed in OCMH. 



CHAPTER III 



Smoke and Bridging Operations 

(9-14 September) 



It had been anticipated that crossings 
of the Moselle would initially and for 
some time after establishment of bridge- 
heads be exposed to commanding Ger- 
man observation. A new technique in 
Third Army river crossing operations had 
therefore been planned: a large-area for- 
ward smoke screen to assist bridging 
efforts. The 84th Chemical Company, 
a smoke generator unit, was attached to 
the 5th Division on 6 September to pro- 
vide such a screen. Unfortunately, at 
the time of the Dornot crossing, the 84th 
had not yet arrived from employment on 
truck-driving tasks with the Red Ball 
Express supply route from the Normandy 
beaches. Not until the crossing at Arna- 
ville was it able to begin its new assign- 
ment. 

The assignment was new in many 
ways. It was the first of its kind in the 
entire European theater. Neither the 
5th Division nor its supporting engineers 
had ever before worked with a smoke 
generator unit in a river crossing action. 
And, like other smoke generator units in 
the ETO, the 84th Chemical Company 
had been trained only for rear-area anti- 
aircraft missions, not for assault support. 
Screening operations at Arnaville were 
thus to prove a new experience for all 
participants. 1 

1 Unless otherwise noted, the story of smoke opera- 
tions is from the following sources: Lt Col Levin B. 



The 84 th Chemical Company was 
placed under operational control of the 
1103d Engineer Combat Group, which 
was to construct the Arnaville bridges, 
and under the general supervision of the 
5th Division chemical officer, Lt. Col. 
Levin B. Cottingham. After the 10th 
Infantry received its orders late on 8 
September to cross at Arnaville, Colonel 
Cottingham instituted a meteorological 
study of the area, finding that weather 
reports available from the air forces could 
be supplemented by local observations 
from supporting artillery and natives of 
the region. He determined that the 
prevailing wind was of a low velocity and 
from the west. Both Colonel Cotting- 
ham and the chemical company com- 
mander conducted reconnaissance and 
decided that if generators were placed at 
Position 1, about a thousand yards west 



Cottingham (formerly chemical officer, 5th Div), 
Employment of a Smoke Generator Company in an 
Assault Crossing of the Moselle River, Combat Interv 
File 38; Lt Col Levin B. Cottingham, "Smoke Over 
the Moselle," The Infantry Journal, August, 1948; 
Ltr, Col Cottingham to Hist Div, 28 Mar 50; Paul 
W. Pritchard, Smoke Generator Operations in the 
Mediterranean and European Theaters of Operation, 
MS, Ch. VI, "Operations with the Third Army" 
(hereafter cited as Smoke Generator Operations), 
Hist Sec, Office of the Chief of the Chemical Corps. 
See also observations on smoke operations by en- 
gineer officers in Combat Interv 38, Engineer 
Operations at Arnaville (hereafter cited as Engineer 
Operations). 



64 



THREE BATTLES 




1 — • — . — ■ ' .v J. a i_i u 1 u . _i. ! 

If Greeks 

MAP 4 



of Arnaville behind chc hill mass on 
Arnavillc's norlh flank, the prevailing 
wind would carry the smoke through the 
Arnaville defile, spread it over the cross- 
ing site and into the enemy hill positions, 
and thus cover the entire crossing area 
with a haze that would deny enemy air 
and artillery observation on both the 
approaches and the crossing site. (Map 
4) Being so placed to the west of the hill 
mass, the generator positions, oil supply 
dump, and unit personnel would be pro- 
tected from enemy fire and could be 
readily supplied along the Bayonville- 



Arnaville road. Because of these ad- 
vantages, the presumed improbability of 
a wind change, and the 84th's lack of 
experience under forward-area combat 
conditions, it was decided that no 
generator would be placed initially at 
the crossing site. 

An observation post was to be estab- 
lished with the Cannon Company, 10th 
Infantry, on the crest of the hill south of 
Arnaville. Another was to go on the hill 
north of the town. Communication be- 
tween observation posts and the smoke 
control officer, Colonel Cottingham, at 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



65 



the crossing site was to be by radio; the 
engineers had tactical control of the 
smoke through the control officer. Lack- 
ing time for special training, troops of the 
84th moved into Position 1 and the 
observation posts during darkness, 9-10 
September. 

The 84th was equipped with the new 
M^2 smoke generator, a weapon espe- 
cially designed for forward-area screen- 
ing, and was prepared to supplement the 
screen with M-l and M-4 smoke pots. 
Fog oil had to be hauled by the 5th Divi- 
sion's Quartermaster Company trucks 
from the Third Army depot at Troyes, 
some 180 miles in the rear, to the 84th's 
bivouac area, about four miles to the rear 
of the forward dump at Position 1. 
Company trucks were to haul oil and 
other supplies the last four miles to 
the generator positions. Originally only 
twelve generators were to operate at 
Position 1, but the number could be 
increased or decreased as the situation 
demanded, forty-eight generators being 
available. Assault elements of the 10th 
Infantry were scheduled to cross the 
Moselle between midnight and dawn the 
morning of 10 September, and the 84th 
generators were to begin making smoke 
at daylight, 0600, 10 September. 

Smoke Operations Begin 

Smoke operations began on schedule. 
By the time the 1st and 2d Battalions, 
10th Infantry, were crossing the Metz 
highway and advancing toward their 
hilltop objectives east of the river, activity 
at the crossing site was almost as well 
hidden from the enemy as it had been 
when the infantry crossed under cover 
of darkness. Although enemy artillery 
fire did begin at daylight, that which fell 



around the crossing site was evidently 
unobserved. 

A sudden shift in wind direction from 
west to northeast about 1000 sent the 
smoke away from the crossing site. The 
screen rapidly dissipated and exposed the 
open terrain around the river to the 
dominant German observation. The 
fact that enemy artillery took immediate 
advantage of the opportunity empha- 
sized, according to chemical officers, the 
protection afforded by the screen and the 
necessity of re-establishing it. 

The possibility of a wind shift had 
evidently been discounted, for now a 
second reconnaissance was necessary be- 
fore new generator positions could be 
occupied. Position 2, only a few yards 
from the river and behind an abandoned 
railroad embankment six to eight feet 
high, was chosen. A number of men 
under 2d Lt. Frank W. Young moved 
four generators to the new site, and smoke 
was started again before noon. A search 
failed to locate the chemical company 
commander and revealed that the troops 
had abandoned the generators and sup- 
plies at Position 1. The company com- 
mander was subsequently relieved. With 
the company executive officer across the 
river reconnoitering for new positions, 
the 1st sergeant finally succeeded in 
rounding up some of his men and organiz- 
ing details for moving spare generators 
and oil to Position 2. Inadequately pre- 
pared for combat operations and minus 
a company commander to lead the way, 
many of the chemical troops took position 
"only after considerable persuasion." 2 
The 84th's executive officer, 1st Lt. 
George R. Lamb, was given command of 
the company, and the 1103d Engineer 



Smoke Generator Operations. 



66 



THREE BATTLES 




TRUCK-MOUNTED SMOKE GENERATOR IN OPERATION 



Combat Group commander was given 
specific control over the smoke opera- 
tions. The 5th Division chemical officer 
was to continue providing technical 
supervision. 

Through the afternoon the smoke 
screen was maintained by the four 
generators at Position 2, augmented by 
smoke pots to conceal the line of gen- 
erators. Meanwhile, preparations were 
made for establishing additional posi- 
tions. Position 3 was set up in late 
afternoon along the railroad embankment 
beside the Arnaville-Noveant road just 
north of Arnaville. Before daylight (11 



September) eight generator crews and 
generators were ferried across the river 
to occupy Position 4, almost directly 
across the Moselle from Position 3 on the 
flatlands some 150 yards from the river. 
To test the feasibility of night operations 
in the event of enemy air attack, screening 
continued through the night of 10-11 
September at Positions 2 and 3. The 
smoke clung low to the ground and hid 
the crossing site from observation by 
moonlight. It drifted slowly under a 
two-mile north wind. Because no night 
air attack developed, further night opera- 
tions were not considered necessary. On 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



67 



11 September Position 5, between the 
canal and the river and south of the 
crossing site, and Position 6, between the 
railroad and the hill south of Arnaville, 
were established. They were not put 
into operation but were kept in readiness 
for use when the situation demanded. 
One generator was mounted on a truck 
to move up and down the Arnaville- 
Noveant road on the west bank in order 
to cover gaps that might develop in the 
screen. 

During the early morning of 11 Sep- 
tember, while the infantry were battling 
German counterattacks on Hills 370 and 
386, enemy artillery fire around the 
crossing site was virtually nonexistent. 
Since the smoke interfered with bridge- 
building operations, someone among the 
engineers decided that further screening, 
at least for the present, was unnecessary. 
About 0900 an unidentified engineer 
ordered smoke operations to cease. 3 

As soon as the smoke had cleared the 
area, enemy artillery reaction was "swift 
and deadly. Two pieces of heavy en- 
gineer equipment were damaged, a jeep 
was demolished, and a number of engi- 
neer personnel were wounded and killed. 
The chemical officer, Colonel Cotting- 
ham, acting in the emergency in the name 
of the division commander, ordered the 
screen re-established. But during this 
period and the period the day before 
when wind change had removed the 
screen, the enemy had been given an 
opportunity to lay his artillery pieces; 
the chemical personnel felt that the 
effects of the restored screen would have 
been better had these two lapses not 
occurred. The engineer group com- 
mander, Lt. Col. George H. Walker, felt 



3 Ibid. See also Ltr, Col Cottingham to Hist Div. 



that "too great emphasis" was placed on 
the smoking operations. Because "the 
Germans were well aware" of the bridg- 
ing operations, knew the terrain thor- 
oughly, and "had already registered 
several effective barrages," he believed 
German artillery fire on the bridging 
sites was affected more by enemy ammu- 
nition limitations and other target re- 
quirements than by American smoke. 4 

After restoration of the smoke, control 
of smoke operations was returned to the 
5th Division commander to be exercised 
through the division chemical officer. 
On 12 September and on subsequent 
days until 8 November, the 84th Chem- 
ical Company, and later the 161st 
Chemical Smoke Generator Company, 
maintained "continuous" 5 smoke during 
daylight around the Arnaville site. Un- 
observed enemy shellfire resulted in the 
evacuation of eight men for combat 
fatigue, wounded seven, and killed two. 
It made supply, particularly east of the 
river, a difficult problem. Nevertheless, 
the inexperienced chemical troops stuck 
to their task. Artillery liaison planes 
proved most effective in observing to 
determine the effectiveness of the screen, 
and at least three flights were made daily 
for this purpose. The convergence of 
the draw and defiles with the Moselle 
valley near Arnaville caused such variance 
in wind conditions that often the smoke 



4 Ltr, Col Walker to Hist Div, 30 Mar 50. No 
mention of smoke operations at Arnaville is to be 
found in available German records. 

5 Smoke Generator Operations. According to Ltr, 
Col Walker to Hist Div, "During the morning of 12 
September . . . the bridge site was entirely devoid of 
smoke. . . . Whether this was caused by wind or by 
improper operation of the generators, I cannot say, 
but the fact remains there was clear visibility between 
the bridge site and the enemy-held high ground . . . 
during the entire morning of 12 September. Enemy 
fire during this period was infrequent and ineffective." 



\lrtz-Ponl A Mouuon Highway 5i(r No, 2 




ARNAYILLE CROSSING SITE {aerial photograph taken on 6 October 1944). The 
Rupt de Mad Creek seen in right foreground passes under the lock on the canal near the Moselle 




River. Semi-permanent bridge south of Site 1 was constructed after the Arnaville bridgehead 
action. 



70 



THREE BATTLES 



from two generators only a hundred yards 
apart drifted in opposite directions; but 
the dispersion of the generators after the 
initial wind change on the first day, plus 
smoke pots and mobile generators on 
both banks, helped to keep the screen 
effective. An M-2 generator consumed 
an average of fifty gallons of fog oil per 
hour; during the first twelve days of 
operation 1,535 smoke pots and a daily 
average of 2,200 gallons of fog oil were 
expended. 

Bridging the Moselle 

Colonel Walker's 1 103d Engineer Com- 
bat Group, attached to the 5th Division, 
consisted of the following units: the 160th 
and 204th Engineer Combat Battalions, 6 
the 551st Heavy Ponton Battalion, the 
989th Treadway Bridge Company, the 
537th Light Ponton Company, and the 
623d Light Equipment Company. As- 
sistance in engineer operations could also 
be expected from Company B of the 5th 
Division's organic 7th Engineer Combat 
Battalion. Initial ferrying of the 1st 
Battalion, 10th Infantry, in assault boats 
was done by the organic engineers; the 
2d and 3d Battalions, 10th Infantry, were 
ferried by Company B, 204th Engineers; 
and the 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry, by 
Company C, 160th Engineers. Con- 
struction of infantry support rafts was 
begun during 10 September by Company 
B, 204th Engineers, but heavy enemy 
artillery fire delayed the work. Only a 
few rafts were completed before daylight, 
11 September. 7 

6 On 9 Sep the 150th Engr (C) Bn had been de- 
tached. See 150th Engr (C) Bn AAR, Sep 44. 

7 The engineer story is based on the following 
sources: Combat Interv 38 with unidentified engr 
offs; Engineer Operations; 1 103d Engr (C) Gp, 160th 
and 204th Engr (C) Bns, 551st Hv Pon Bn, 989th 



Bridging operations east of Arnaville 
were complicated not only by the fact of 
dominant enemy observation but also by 
several difficult terrain features at the 
crossing site itself. In effect, the engi- 
neers would have to bridge two streams, 
and possibly three. The first was the 
deep Moselle Canal, 80 feet wide. Next 
came the Moselle itself, approximately 
250 feet wide. There was also the Rupt 
de Mad, a small east-west tributary run- 
ning through the Arnaville defile, passing 
under the canal, and emptying into the 
river north of the crossing site. (Map 5) 

Reconnaissance revealed that southeast 
of Arnaville, near the junction of the 
north-south railroad with a southwestern 
spur rail line, a narrow trail overgrown 
with vegetation led up the steep dike of 
the canal to the remains of a one-way 
steel truss bridge which had been con- 
structed by French military engineers in 
1940. The bridge itself had been de- 
molished, and its debris blocked the site. 
Opposite this possible bridge site was 
another high dike, but beyond the dike 
another narrow trail led to the river and 
to an outlet road beyond the river leading 
to Voisage Farm. The banks of the river 
here offered satisfactory prospects for a 
floating bridge. To reach this crossing 
of the canal, vehicles would initially have 
to travel south out of Arnaville on the 
Pagny highway, thus crossing the Rupt 
de Mad on an existing masonry arch 
bridge between the town's main street 
and a railroad spur that joined the main 
rail line northeast of Arnaville. 

The most direct route from Arnaville 
to the river led due east through under- 



Tdwy Br Co, 537th Lt Pon Co, G23d Lt Equip Co, 
AAR's, Sep 44; Ltr, Col Walker to Hist Div. The 
preliminary narrative, Engineer Operations, is ex- 
tremely valuable. 



71 




passes beneath this same railroad spur 
and the main rail line, to a lock on the 
canal. Although foot troops had been 
able to cross the canal at the lock, ap- 
proximately thirty fect of bridging would 
be necessary for vehicular traffic. But 
to reach cither River Site 1 or another 
possible bridging site (River Site 2, north- 
east of the canal lock) vehicles would 
have to cross the Rupt dc Mad, which 



ran northeast between the canal and the 
river. River Site 2 also offered an outlet 
road beyond the river to the Mctz— 
Pont-a-Mousson highway. After cross- 
ing the canal, vehicles might turn north 
along the canal dike to reach the river 
at a shallow rapids which offered the 
possibility of a fording site. Engineers 
recognized, however, that a large amount 
of bulldozer work would first be necessary 



72 



THREE BATTLES 



on steep west and east banks of the river 
before fording might be accomplished. 
Another terrain feature — later to prove 
an advantage against enemy shelling — 
was the section of abandoned railroad 
embankment about eight feet high which 
stretched at intervals along the river bank 
from south of River Site 1 to River Site 2. 
Because of frequent gaps in the bank, it 
would be no obstacle in reaching the 
river bridging sites. 8 

Initial Planning and Operations 

With Company B, 204th Engineers, 
engaged in constructing infantry support 
rafts at the Arnaville site and Company 
C, 160th Engineers, still busy in the 
vicinity of the Dornot bridgehead, the 
remainder of the 1 103d Engineer Combat 
Group 9 on 10 September made plans 
for its bridging operations and assembled 
materials and construction equipment 
west of Arnaville. Actual bridging op- 
erations were not to begin until the night 
of 10-11 September. 

The initial engineer plan envisioned 
construction by Company B, 204th En- 
gineers, of a double treadway bridge 
across the canal at the lock. A second 
thirty-foot section would be required 
across the Rupt de Mad in order to give 
access to the river. Concurrently the 
537th Light Ponton Company was to 



8 In addition to previously quoted sources, this 
terrain study is based on maps and photographs in 
OCMH files and a visit by the author to the area in 
June 1949. 

9 The Light Equipage Platoon, 537th Light Ponton 
Company, was occupied in the Dornot vicinity. 
The organic 7th Engineer Combat Battalion was 
disposed as follows: Company A with the 2d Infantry 
Combat Team to the north; Company B assisting 
ferrying operations at Arnaville; and Company C 
still occupied with the Dornot bridgehead. 



remove the demolished steel truss bridge 
at the southern canal bridge site and 
erect a Bailey bridge. As soon as equip- 
ment could cross the canal, the 989th 
Treadway Bridge Company, assisted by 
Company B, 160th Engineers, was to 
erect a treadway bridge at River Site 1, 
while Headquarters Company, 204th 
Engineers, conducted bulldozer opera- 
tions to level the banks at the fording site. 
Company A, 204th Engineers, was to 
relieve Company B, 204th, of its ferry 
responsibilities. The remainder of the 
engineer group would be called upon as 
needed. 

Heavy enemy artillery fire met the 
engineers as they began their work, but 
not long after midnight (10-11 Septem- 
ber) Company B, 204th Engineers, had 
placed the double treadway span across 
the canal at the lock and had begun work 
on a treadway section across the Rupt de. 
Mad. Meanwhile, Headquarters Com- 
pany, 204th, moved to the fording site 
and began to level the high riverbanks. 
Despite intense artillery fire, which killed 
two bulldozer operators, the ford was 
pronounced ready for vehicles at approxi- 
mately 1030, 11 September. 

As the 537th Light Ponton Company 
was moving from Arnaville toward the 
southern canal bridge site, enemy artil- 
lery fire demolished the masonry span 
across the Rupt de Mad just south of 
Arnaville's main street. Receiving a 
change in orders, the 537th began con- 
struction of a double-double Bailey bridge 
to replace the masonry span across the 
tributary stream. Although enemy ar- 
tillery fire continued to be heavy on 
Arnaville, only two vehicles were dam- 
aged and no personnel casualties resulted. 
The bridge was completed by 1500, 11 
September. 




DOUBLE TREADWAY SPAN ACROSS THE MOSELLE CANAL placed by 
Company B, 204th Engineers. Remains of one-way steel truss bridge can be seen in background. 



74 



THREE BATTLES 



Not long after 0200 (11 September) 
Company B, 204th Engineers, completed 
the small section of treadway bridge 
necessary across the Rupt de Mad near 
the canal lock and began moving equip- 
ment and bridging materials for the 
erection of a treadway bridge at River 
Site 1. Work had been in progress for 
an hour when about dawn severe enemy 
artillery fire wounded several men and 
damaged eight pneumatic floats. An- 
other heavy shelling almost an hour later 
halted work while the men took cover 
behind the abandoned railroad embank- 
ment. When work was resumed, still 
under a smoke screen, enemy artillery 
reaction was virtually nonexistent. It 
was at this time (about 0900) that some 
unidentified engineer, evidently hoping 
to speed construction, ordered that the 
84th Chemical Company cease its smoke 
operations. German artillery reacted 
almost as soon as the smoke cleared 
away. An air compressor and a Brock- 
way truck were damaged, and a quarter- 
ton truck was demolished by a direct hit. 
Approximately eight engineers were 
wounded, and six were killed. Shells 
continued to fall at five- to ten-minute 
intervals, and the company was with- 
drawn to a position of safety west of 
Arnaville. 10 

10 Engineer accounts of this action are in sharp 
disagreement with Chemical Corps accounts, setting 
the time of shelling before daylight. With the excep- 
tion of Ltr, Col Walker to Hist Div, these accounts 
do not even mention the discontinuance of smoke. 
Chemical Corps accounts, specifically Smoke Gen- 
erator Operations and lAr, Col Cottingham to Hist 
Div, are accepted because they more nearly agree 
with messages from the engineers recorded in the 
10th Inf Unit Jnl, 11 Sep 44. It cannot be deter- 
mined who gave the order to cease smoke except that 
Colonel Cottingham's letter to the Historical Division 
says, "The order was given by the engineers to the 
best of my knowledge. . . ." Colonel Walker's letter 
to the Historical Division declares, "I . . . recall that 



Armor Crosses at the Ford 

Until 11 September the 735th Tank 
Battalion had been waiting in a forward 
assembly area west of Arnaville for com- 
pletion of a bridge across the Moselle. 
Although the 818th Tank Destroyer Bat- 
talion had entered the action with fire 
support from its Company B in positions 
atop the high hills flanking Arnaville, the 
tank destroyers also were awaiting a 
bridge to cross the river and join actively 
in the bridgehead fight. At 1030 on 11 
September when Headquarters Com- 
pany, 204th Engineers, completed level- 
ing the banks at the fording site north of 
the bridging sites, it seemed likely that 
armored elements might at last join the 
battle. The floor of the river at the ford 
was of gravel and most of the stream was 
not over two feet deep. Near the far 
shore, however, a sixty-foot channel was 
found where the depth was from four to 
four and a half feet, a dangerous, even 
critical, depth for armor. Seeking to 
lower the water level, supporting artillery 
units attempted to puncture a dam 
across the Moselle south of Ars-sur- 
Moselle to the north while engineers 
worked to lay sections of treadway bridge 
on the river bottom in the deep channel. 

The dam had not been broken by 
1500. Nevertheless the 1st and 2d 
Platoons of the 818th Tank Destroyer 
Battalion began to hazard the crossing. 
Movement was slow and exasperating. 
Almost every time a vehicle crossed, the 
treadway sections on the bottom had to 
be repaired. At one time enemy artillery 
fire literally blasted the treadway sec- 
tions out of the river. One tank de- 

the 5th Division Engineer stated that I must have 
ordered the smoke to cease but this was not correct 
and I so stated at the time." 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



75 



stroyer was hit and disabled by artillery 
fire, and by 1 630 only six destroyers were 
across the Moselle. Tanks of Company 
B, 735th Tank Battalion, next attempted 
the crossing and met with more success; 
only six tanks crossed under their own 
power, but three that stalled were towed 
the remaining distance. 

Since artillery had failed to puncture 
the dam south of Ars-sur-Moselle, P-47's 
of the 492d Squadron, 48th Group, gave 
it their attention. They scored a hit 
about 1830, blasting a big hole in the 
dam and lowering the water level seven 
inches at the ford. By early the next 
morning (12 September) the remainder 
of Company B, 735th Tank Battalion, 
and two platoons of Company B, 818th 
Tank Destroyer Battalion, were able to 
cross the river and move into assembly 
are.as behind Hills 369 and 370, east of 
the Metz highway. 11 

Bridging Efforts Continued 

When efforts at constructing a tread- 
way bridge across the Moselle at River 
Site 1 were postponed in early morning 
of 1 1 September because of enemy shell- 
ing, the only bridgebuilding activity in 
the Arnaville vicinity through midday 
was that of the 537th Light Ponton Com- 
pany. By 1500 it finished construction 
of a double-double Bailey bridge across 
the Rupt de Mad just south of Arnaville's 
main street. Headquarters Company, 
204th Engineers, was working at the ford 



11 Engineer Operations; Irwin Diary; 735th Tk 
Bn, 818th TD Bn, AAR's, Sep 44; 10th Inf Unit 
Jnl, 1 1 Sep 44; General Notes: The Crossing of the 
Moselle River and the Defense of the Bridgehead by 
the 10th Infantry Regiment (hereafter cited as 
General Notes on Arnaville operations) in Combat 
Interv 38 File; XIX TAC Opns File, 1 1 Sep ++. 



in its efforts to cross tank destroyers and 
tanks, and Company A, 204th, was 
assisting Company B, 7th Engineers, with 
infantry support rafts at two ferry points 
south and north of the original assault 
crossing site. 

In late afternoon (11 September) work 
on a treadway bridge across the river 
was ordered resumed, this time at River 
Site 2. Two companies were assigned 
the task: Company B, 160th Engineers, 
and the 989th Treadway Bridge Com- 
pany. Both were under the supervision 
of the 160th Engineer Combat Battalion 
commander, Maj. Thomas L. Howard. 
The engineer group commander, Colonel 
Walker, was present at the site through- 
out the night and until about noon the 
next day. 

Working under concealment provided 
first by the smoke generators and then by 
early darkness, the engineers had suc- 
ceeded by approximately 2100 in com- 
pleting a third of the bridge when enemy 
artillery again showered the area. Sev- 
eral engineers were wounded, and work 
was halted twenty minutes for reorgani- 
zation and for testing equipment. Op- 
erations had hardly been resumed when 
the enemy fire began again, wounding 
several men. While the engineers sought 
cover behind the abandoned railroad 
embankment, Colonel Walker sent a 
messenger to the 10th Infantry command 
post requesting counterbattery fire, only 
to learn later that the messenger failed to 
locate the command post. When work 
was resumed after about twenty minutes, 
five or six shells landed some fifty yards 
away. They failed to interrupt work at 
the site but knocked out one of two engi- 
neer powerboats with a direct hit. The 
boat's operator was never found. As an 
order went back for the third and last 



76 



THREE BATTLES 



powerboat to be brought forward, the 
only crane on the bridge site was damaged 
by another shelling which again forced 
engineer withdrawal behind the railroad 
bank. Again the shelling stopped, again 
equipment was tested preparatory to 
resuming work, and again enemy pro- 
jectiles hit the area. While the engineers 
waited under cover, Colonel Walker went 
personally to the 10th Infantry CP and 
requested counterbattery artillery fire. 
Both the 10th Infantry commander, 
Colonel Bell, and his artillery officer, 
Colonel Johnson, wanted to do what they 
could, but demands on limited artillery 
ammunition by the infantry in the bridge- 
head and the engineer commander's 
inability to give information on location 
of enemy batteries doing the firing 
negated his request. 

On his return to the bridge site, 
Colonel Walker found that enemy artil- 
lery was still taking effect. About 0200 
at least one enemy self-propelled gun 
fired some ten to fifteen rounds of direct 
fire into the embankment and the canal 
dike. An hour later enemy artillery fire 
was blanketing the area at frequent inter- 
vals. Deciding that it was pointless to 
retain the engineers at the river when 
there was no hope of using the necessary 
machinery, Colonel Walker ordered their 
withdrawal to Arnaville. He and an- 
other engineer officer remained at the 
site. 

Thus engineer activities around the 
crossing site came to a temporary halt. 
The hard-pressed bridgehead still lacked 
a vehicular bridge. There was feeling 
among infantry commanders that despite 
the difficulties involved the engineers 
were not pressing their work sufficiently. 
General Irwin himself had ordered that 
a bridge be completed the night of 10-1 1 



September "at all costs" 12 but noted 
privately that the "best hope is to have 
a ford in by daylight and possibly a 
treadway bridge." ' s On 11 September 
not even the ford was usable until mid- 
afternoon. On this date General Irwin 
noted: "Engineers at bridge not well 
coordinated." " The 10th Infantry S-3 
journal noted later in the day of 12 Sep- 
tember "deficiencies by the engineers in 
getting the bridge ready for use." What- 
ever the criticisms, the two engineer 
companies that had been working the 
night of 11-12 September had been hard 
hit by the severe enemy shelling. They 
had lost not only personnel but vital 
equipment, of which there was an acute 
shortage in Third Army during this 
period. Although the engineer group 
commander felt keenly his responsibility 
to the infantry, he also believed it un- 
warranted to commit his personnel and 
equipment recklessly, thus inviting an 
ultimate delay that might prove far more 
costly than a temporary delay. 15 

German Counterattacks — 12 September 

As engineer activity around the Arna- 
ville crossing site came to a halt in early 
morning of 12 September, preparations 
begun by the enemy the night before for 
a continuation of his counterattacks 
against the bridgehead's infantry sud- 

11 10th Inf Unit Jnl, 10 Sep 44. 
11 Irwin Diary. 
I* Ibid. 

15 This section of the engineer story is from: En- 
gineer Operations; Irwin Diary; 10th Inf Unit Jnl, 
11-12 Sep 44; 1103d Engr (C) Gp, 160th Engr (C) 
Bn, 989th Tdwy Br Co, AAR's, Sep 44; Ltr, Col 
Walker to Hist Div. Colonel Walker's commenls, 
particularly on the action the night of 11-12 Sep- 
tember, are in valuable detail. See also Certificate, 
Maj Howard W. Clark, Asst XX Corps Engr, 14 
Sep 44, atchd to Ltr, Col Walker to Hist Div. 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



77 



denly erupted in artillery, armor, and 
ground action all along the line. Early 
warning of enemy intentions had come 
the night before when a platoon of 
German tanks took position beyond 
bazooka range on Hill 325 and directed 
20-mm. and machine gun fire against 
Company F in the e dge of the Bois de 
Gaumont. {Map 6) While harassment 
of Company F continued sporadically 
through the night, men of Company A 
on Hill 386 could hear enemy troop 
movement several hundred yards in 
front of them. S. Sgt. Leslie W. Griffin 
crawled forward of the company's lines 
with a telephone and directed artillery 
fire against the sounds. The movement 
ceased, but tanks could be heard at inter- 
vals through the night on the Arry-Lorry 
road. 

About 0300 (12 September) a prepara- 
tory mortar and artillery barrage began 
in front of both the 1st and 2d Battalion 
lines. Moving forward in hundred-yard 
jumps, the barrage rolled across the crests 
to the reverse slopes, subjecting the 
defenders to the heaviest fire they had 
yet encountered in the bridgehead. The 
first counterattack, a well co-ordinated 
night attack, hit Company A on Hill 386 
at approximately 0330. When the com- 
pany heard the enemy forming up some 
one hundred yards in front of its lines, 
Lieutenant Dutko, the forward artillery 
observer, called for fire. Although the 
artillery cut into the rear of the attackers, 
causing some disorganization, the attack 
had already moved in under this fire, 
hitting primarily against the 1st Platoon 
in the company's center. Stationing S. 
Sgt. Carmine F. D'Anillo with an auto- 
matic rifle near the 3d Platoon on the 
left and a light machine gunner and a 
bazooka team on the right beside the 2d 



Platoon, Lieutenant Hallowell, com- 
manding the company, ordered the 1st 
Platoon to withdraw about 150 yards. 
Even as Company D's heavy machine 
guns on Company A's left flank fired into 
the flank of the German attack, the ene- 
my troops moved into the 1st Platoon's 
positions. Sergeant D'Anillo opened 
fire with his automatic rifle and the 
light machine gunner and bazooka team 
on the right joined in. D'Anillo con- 
tinued firing even after four men with him 
became casualties and he himself was 
hit in the stomach. Supported by this 
fire, the 1st Platoon, aided by some men 
of the flank platoons, stormed back into 
its positions. The German attack was 
broken. 

The attack against Company A had 
been made by two enemy companies 
newly equipped and well armed with 
automatic weapons. Company A found 
fourteen machine guns and other auto- 
matic weapons in the area. Most of the 
attackers were killed and few prisoners 
taken except the wounded, and many 
wounded refused to surrender as long as 
they had weapons. Company A had 
sustained twenty-five casualties.. The 
attack was evidently to have been sup- 
ported by tanks attacking from Arry, but 
supporting artillery and 57-mm. antitank 
guns kept the town covered, and no tank 
effort developed. 16 

On the left flank of the bridgehead the 
enemy counterattack was a little later 
getting started and was primarily a tank 
attack. Two platoons of tanks and a 
company of infantry were detected about 



16 1st Bn story from the following: Moselle River 
Crossing; General Notes on Arnaville operations; 
46th FA Bn AAR, Sep 44; 10th Inf Unit Jnl, 12 Sep 
44; Tenth Infantry. 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



79 



0400 moving in from the direction of 
Vezon against the 2d Battalion elements 
on the left portion of Hill 370. Heavy 
protective fire from west of the river from 
artillery, tank destroyers, and Cannon 
Company, 10th Infantry, was laid on the 
Germans before they could get close to 
the lines, and the attack was stopped. 

About an hour later, four enemy tanks 
moved in against Company L, 11th In- 
fantry, now on the lower slopes of Hill 
325 to the left of Company F. After the 
tanks had fired about a dozen scattered 
rounds against 10th Infantry positions in 
the Bois de Gaumont and against the 
bridge site, Company L's bazooka men 
opened fire. When one tank was hit, 
although not knocked out, the four with- 
drew. Farther down on the slope a 
platoon of tanks, led by a half-track, 
moved in against the outposts established 
by the Reconnaissance and Ammunition 
and Pioneer Platoons of the 3d Battalion, 
1 1 th Infantry. The half-track bogged 
down on the muddy slope and bazooka 
men fired at the tanks; thereupon the 
enemy abandoned the half-track and the 
tanks withdrew. 

On the extreme left flank of the bridge- 
head, the positions of Company B, 11th 
Infantry, in the buildings around a brick 
factory in the southern edge of Corny, 
were hit about the same time, just before 
daylight. At 0530 Company B reported 
the approach of a platoon of infantry 
accompanied by four tanks, presumably 
those whose earlier attack had been 
thwarted by the bogged half-track. The 
company reported that it had only one 
bazooka and that even though the infan- 
try could be stopped the tanks might 
break through. Major Birdsong, the 
battalion commander, therefore sent his 
orderly, Pfc. Harry Saghbazarian, on 



foot to the tank destroyer assembly area 
north of Voisagc Farm to guide tank 
destroyers into firing positions against the 
threat. 

Spearheading the attack, the four 
enemy tanks passed through the Com- 
pany B positions. One of the 3d Bat- 
talion's 57-mm. antitank guns, manned 
by 1st Lt. Mitchell J. Hazam and S. Sgt. 
Cline Bills, opened fire on the lead tank 
and set it ablaze. The second German 
tank returned the fire, knocking out both 
the crew and the antitank gun and forcing 
the other antitank gun crews to take 
cover. As the three remaining enemy 
tanks continued to advance, the tank 
destroyers of Company B, 818th Tank 
Destroyer Battalion, reached firing posi- 
tions, fired, knocked out one of the three 
tanks, and damaged another. Mean- 
while, Company B, 11th Infantry, had 
held its small arms fire and allowed the 
enemy infantry to get into its positions. 
On signal the men opened fire from their 
covered positions in the houses, catching 
the German infantry in a deadly cross 
fire. Twenty-three Germans were killed, 
seven wounded, and twenty-eight cap- 
tured. The two remaining enemy tanks 
v (one of them damaged) raced back 
through the company's positions. Al- 
though Pfc. Walter A. Andrews, Com- 
pany B, shot the commander of one of 
the tanks through the tank's open turret, 
both tanks escaped into Corny and hid 
through the day and night. The next 
morning when one tried to escape on the 
Metz highway to the north it was set on 
fire by tank destroyers firing from west 
of the river. Later the remaining tank, 
previously damaged by the 818th's de- 
stroyers, was found abandoned in Corny. 
The Germans had been beaten back but 
not without cost; in its right flank platoon 



80 



THREE BATTLES 



Company B had lost the platoon leader 
and eighteen men, missing in action. 17 

Although heavy enemy shelling, most 
of it against the reserve positions around 
Voisage Farm and on the reverse slopes 
of the hills, continued for almost an hour, 
by 0800 (12 September) the third major 
counterattack against the Moselle bridge- 
head had been defeated. Prisoners taken 
were from the 282d Infantry Battalion, a 
separate machine gun battalion, a sup- 
porting tank battalion (103d), the 115th 
Panzer Grenadier Regiment of the 15th Panzer 
Grenadier Division, which had moved into 
the area the day before, and the 17th SS 
and 3d Panzer Grenadier Divisions. That 
night the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division 
began a move south to the Nancy sector, 
leaving the burden of the Arnaville fight 
to the 17th SS and elements of the 3d 
Panzer Grenadier Division. The Americans 
knew nothing of the 15th's shift at the 
time. A belief prevalent among both 
5th Division and CCB personnel that 
they were fighting the elite troops of the 
Metz military schools is not borne out 
by German records. These school troops 
were in the German "bridgehead" west 
of Metz surrounding Forts Driant, Mari- 
val, and Jeanne d'Arc and were being 
engaged by the 2d Infantry and other 
elements of the 7th Armored Division. 
Some were north of Metz fighting the 
90th Infantry Division. All were under 
Division Number 462. Not until after the 
Arnaville bridgehead was secure did any 
of these school troops enter the American 
bridgehead battles south of Metz, except 



17 2d Bn, 10th Inf, and 3d Bn, 1 1 th Inf, stories from 
the following: Moselle River Crossing; Combat Interv 
38 with Birdsong and Simpson-Lynch-Lathrop; 10th 
Inf Unit Jnl, 12 Sep 44; 818th TD Bn AAR, Sep 44; 
Ltr, Col Birdsong to Hist Div. 



for one battalion of signal school troops 
(SS Signal School Metz) which fought 
against the 2d Battalion of the 11th In- 
fantry opposite Dornot. (Replacement 
battalions in the area, though originally 
under Division Number 462, were not school 
troops.) Not that the Arnaville bridge- 
head was being opposed by inferior 
German troops: the 17th SS Panzer Grena- 
dier Division had been refitted and its 
combat value considerably increased; the 
3d and 5th Panzer Grenadier Divisions had 
nuclei of elite personnel and even at this 
period carried a German classification in 
general combat effectiveness of II — 
better than average. 18 

Plans To Expand the Bridgehead 

At daylight on 1 2 September the force 
still available to General Irwin for 
strengthening his Arnaville bridgehead 
seemed at first glance sufficient. But 
strings were attached to it. The 1st 
Battalion, 11th Infantry, which had not 
yet crossed, was actually already com- 
mitted in holding the division's north 
flank north of Dornot, and its Companies 
B and C were attached to the 3d Battalion 
in the bridgehead. The 3d Battalion's 
Companies I and K could not be con- 
sidered fair exchange because of the 
battering they had received at Dornot. 
Although the 2d Battalion, 1 1th Infantry, 
still had not crossed, it too had been 
ravaged in the Dornot battle and was far 
from reconstituted. Furthermore, it was 
the division's only infantry reserve. 



1 »MS#B-042 (Krause); MS # B-728 (Colonel 
Albert Emmerich, formerly G-3, First Army); various 
Ltrs and Rpts, 9-16 Sep 44, found in Army Group G 
KTB 2, Anlagen 1. IX. -30.1 X. 44; IPW Msg, 10th Inf 
Unit Jnl File, 1 2 Sep 44. 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



81 



There remained CCB, 7th Armored Di- 
vision, which was alerted to cross the 
moment a bridge could be completed. 
General Irwin was alarmed about the 
lack of infantry to support the combat 
command, for the unit's 23d Armored 
Infantry Battalion had been reduced 
almost to a cipher in the Dornot fighting. 
In addition, the 5th Division commander 
could count on Companies C and D, 
735th Tank Battalion, and Company C, 
818th Tank Destroyer Battalion. (The 
A Companies of both units were attached 
to the 2d Infantry Combat Team which 
was attached to the 7th Armored Division 
in its fight to contain the enemy west of 
Metz.) With his division short approxi- 
mately 60 officers and 1,600 riflemen, 
General Irwin asked for additional rein- 
forcements. The XX Corps commander, 
General Walker, considered briefly a plan 
to aid the 5th Division by leaving the 2d 
Infantry alone to continue the attack west 
of Metz and sending CCA, 7th Armored 
Division, to the bridgehead; but the 7th 
Armored Division commander advised 
that it would take more than one infantry 
combat team to contain these German 
forces. Therefore, XX Corps had to 
turn to a plan for wider reshuffling all 
along the corps front. 

Meanwhile, General Irwin tried to 
make arrangements with the 4th Ar- 
mored Division, which had moved up to 
the river at Pagny-sur-Moselle, south of 
Arnaville, for mutual support that would 
include a crossing by the 4th Armored at 
Pagny. Late on 11 September the 4th 
Armored agreed to cross in conjunction 
with an attack by 5th Division elements 
to break through Arry and take Hill 385 
to the southeast opposite the proposed 
Pagny crossing. General Irwin accord- 
ingly laid plans for this attack, but at 



0400 of 12 September the 4th Armored 
sent word that it had to delay its crossing 
for twenty- four hours. Throughout that 
day, the shortage of infantry stymied any 
plans to break out of the Arnaville 
bridgehead. 19 

Reinforcements for the Bridgehead 

Colonel Walker, the engineer group 
commander, had evacuated all engineer 
personnel from the Arnaville bridge site 
at 0300 the morning of 12 September. 
Two and a half hours later, noting that 
enemy artillery fire had lessened, he 
ordered that construction begin again on 
a treadway bridge at River Site 2. (See 
Map 5.) | The 989th Treadway Bridge 
Company, this time assisted by Company 
C, 204th Engineers, and one platoon of 
Company C, 160th Engineers, resumed 
work at 0800. The delay occurred be- 
cause no troops had been kept on construc- 
tion alert after the earlier withdrawal. 
Artillery fire had dwindled to occasional 
shelling in the near vicinity, and the 
engineers sustained no casualties. By 
1230 (12 September), some fifty-eight 
hours after the infantry had begun their 
crossing, a treadway bridge at last 
spanned the Moselle. Concurrently the 
537th Light Ponton Company's Foot- 
bridge Section combined assault boats 
and support rafts into a footbridge to fa- 
cilitate evacuation of walking wounded. 20 

Ten minutes after the treadway bridge 
was completed at River Site 2, tanks of 
Company C, 735th Tank Battalion, 

" Irwin Diary; 10th Inf Unit Jnl, 12 Sep 44; 
Moselle River Crossing; 5th Div G-3 Jnl, 12 Sep 44. 

20 Moselle River Grossing; Engineer Operations; 
1 103d Engr (C) Gp, 989th Tdwy Br Co, 204th Engr 
(C) Bn, 160th Engr (C) Bn, 537th Lt Pon Co, AAR's, 
Sep 44; 10th Inf Unit Jnl, 12Sep44;Ltr, Col Walker 
to Hist Div. 




TREADWAY BRIDGE AT RIVER SITE 2. Haze in background is from smoke 
operations. 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



83 



began moving over it into the bridgehead. 
The remaining platoon of Company B 
and the 3d Platoon, Company C, 818th 
Tank Destroyer Battalion, followed, while 
the other two platoons of Company C, 
818 th, maintained firing positions on the 
west-bank hills flanking Arnaville. After 
the destroyers came Companies A, B, 
and C of CCB's 31st Tank Battalion. 
They moved into an assembly area be- 
hind wooded Hill 370 east of the Metz 
highway. CCB's tank destroyer sup- 
port, Company B, 814th Tank Destroyer 
Battalion, followed soon after. 

The confined bridgehead was almost 
bursting with uncommitted armor (five 
medium tank companies, seven self- 
propelled tank destroyer platoons), but 
infantry support to enlarge the maneuver 
area was not available. CCB's 23d 
Armored Infantry Battalion was still too 
weak from its Dornot fight for commit- 
ment, as was the 2d Battalion, 11th 
Infantry; and the 1st Battalion, 11th In- 
fantry, was holding a defensive position 
north of Dornot protecting the division's 
north flank. The infantry already in the 
bridgehead possessed a reserve in the 3d 
Battalion, 10th Infantry. To commit it 
despite the battered condition of the 1st 
and 2d Battalions, 10th Infantry, in an 
attack which would further extend the 
infantry lines seemed inadvisable. The 
Germans were still punishing the area 
with shellfire from an arc of approxi- 
mately 210 degrees. They still held the 
dominant terrain feature in the area, 
Hill 396; the battered village of Arry; 
almost all of the north-flank town, Corny; 
and the bare slopes of Hill 325. On the 
night of 12-13 September the enemy 
used his advantages profitably, plastering 
the bridgehead with artillery fire that 
took inevitable toll among personnel of 



the bunched armored units on the flat- 
lands along the Metz highway. 21 

Supporting the Bridgehead 

The thirteen field artillery battalions 
charged with support of the bridgehead 
fired, during 12 September, a total of 
5,733 rounds, almost as much as on the 
opening day of the attack. 22 No doubt 
a large portion of this fire was directed 
at repelling the fierce counterattacks of 
early morning. In comparison with the 
weight of American shelling, however, 
General Irwin noted that "Boche artillery 
has actually had superiority today due 
to our ammunition restrictions, and has 
fired over whole area all day long." 
Planes of the 371st Fighter Bomber 
Group, XIX Tactical Air Command, 
taking advantage of another cool, clear 
day with good visibility, augmented 
American artillery throughout the day, 
causing General Irwin to comment: "Air 
furnished splendid support today and has 
been of greatest value. It cooperates 
quickly and efficiently, and has uncanny 
ability to find targets, both from our 
designations and its own." Major mis- 
sions included bombing gun positions at 
Mardigny, southeast of Arry, strafing 
tanks and infantry between Marieulles 
and Fey, and bombing the Verdun forts, 
Sommy and St. Blaise, all by P-47's of 
the 406th Squadron, 371st Group. One 
plane and pilot were lost. 23 

"Moselle River Crossing; 735th Tk Bn, 818th 
TD Bn, CGB, 31st Tk Bn, AAR's, Sep 44. 

22 Arnaville Artillery. This does not include the 
434th Armored Field Artillery Battalion of CCB, 
which placed some fire in the bridgehead during 12 
September but for which firing statistics are not 
available. 

23 Quotes are from Irwin Diary. See also XIX 
TAC Daily Intel Sum, 12 Sep 44, XIX TAC Opns 
File. 



84 



THREE BATTLES 



Infantry, tank destroyers, and artillery 
all made claims of enemy armor kills on 
12 September. The 3d Battalion, 11th 
Infantry, destroyed one tank at Corny 
with a 57-mm. antitank gun; bazookas 
of Company L, 11th Infantry, hit another 
on the open slopes of the Cote de Faye. 
Company B, 818th Tank Destroyer Bat- 
talion, knocked out two at Corny, while 
Company C, 818th, firing from west of 
the river, claimed one half-track and four 
tanks definitely knocked out and one 
tank damaged. An unidentified corps 
artillery unit claimed two tanks knocked 
out southeast of Arry with 155-mm. fire. 
The day's total of established kills, not 
including any that might have been 
made by air support, was ten. 24 

Bridgebuilding Continues 

Late in the afternoon of 12 September 
the 551st Heavy Ponton Battalion was 
ordered to erect a reinforced heavy pon- 
ton bridge across the Moselle at River 
Site 1. Necessary abutments, trestles, 
and hinge-span rafts were to be con- 
structed during the night and await corps 
order for completion. Movement of the 
pontons and other equipment was a 
laborious process because the engineers 
had to use the same route as bridgehead 
traffic. In addition, a steep incline at 
the canal lock crossing and a sharp turn 
at the second treadway over the Rupt de 
Mad presented formidable obstacles to 
the engineers' heavy trailers. Despite 
these difficulties, the first load of equip- 
ment reached the river about 2100, and 
work was begun by the 1st and 2d Bridge 

1* Combat Interv 38 with Birdsong; 818th TD Bn 
AAR, Sep 44; and 10th Inf Unit Jnl, 12 Sep 44, 
from which the information on the corps artillery 
unit was obtained. 



Platoons, Company A, and the 2d Bridge 
Platoon, Company B. The engineers 
finished all preliminary work by 0700 
and then retired to await the order for 
completion. 

At noon on 13 September came the 
order to resume construction. By the 
time personnel and equipment, including 
additional materials necessary for the 
floating portion of the bridge, had moved 
again to the site through the maze of 
bridgehead traffic, it was 1500. Con- 
struction thereafter proceeded rapidly 
with no interference at first from enemy 
artillery. It would have taken approxi- 
mately one and a half hours' additional 
work to complete the bridge when Ger- 
man shelling began at 1745, driving the 
engineers to cover. Concentrations con- 
tinued to fall at fifteen-minute intervals, 
and work was resumed during the lulls. 
About 1830 the fire increased, concentra- 
tions landing every two or three minutes, 
until finally, five hours later, Lt. Col. 
Robert H. Latham, 1103d Engineer 
Combat Group executive officer, ordered 
withdrawal. 

The enemy shelling, presumably from 
the heavy batteries at Fort Driant, 
knocked out a section of the treadway 
bridge at River Site 2, but the engineers 
were able to repair it quickly. The 537th 
Light Ponton Company, which during 
the afternoon had begun construction of 
a Bailey bridge over the southern canal 
crossing site, also suffered casualties from 
the enemy shelling, including severe 
wounds to its two bridge platoon leaders. 
The unit withdrew with the other 
engineers at 2330. 

Work was resumed on both bridges at 
1000 the next morning (14 September) 
with assistance at the heavy ponton 
bridge by Company B, 160th Engineers. 




HEAVY PONTON BRIDGE ACROSS MOSELLE near Arnavtlle was completed by 
551st Engineer Heavy Ponton Battalion on 14 September 1944. 



86 



THREE BATTLES 



Several metallic pontons that had been 
damaged in the partially completed 
bridge were repaired in place. The crane 
and several vehicles had been knocked 
out and seven pneumatic floats had to be 
replaced. Later, about 1330, shelling 
increased, and all personnel withdrew. 
They returned to the job once again 
about 1500 and in two hours completed 
a 250-foot reinforced heavy ponton 
bridge (Class 40 tons). At 1830 an 
eighty-foot double-single Bailey bridge 
was completed across the canal at the 
southern crossing site. The two bridges, 
combined with the treadway bridges at 
River Site 2 and at the canal lock, gave 
two complete one-way routes over the 
combined obstacles and completed engi- 
neer bridge construction at the Arnaville 
crossing until after the bridgehead was 



secured. Only maintenance was re- 
quired, and, although enemy shelling 
continued, there was no major damage 
to either the treadway or the heavy 
ponton bridge until the ponton bridge 
was hit on 28 September. Six metallic 
pontons and several pneumatic floats 
had to be replaced, and the bridge was 
again ready for traffic the next morning. 

The 1103d Engineer Combat Group 
had constructed a total of six bridges 
across three water barriers, the Rupt de 
Mad, the Moselle Canal, and the Moselle 
River. In so doing they had suffered 
100 men wounded and thirteen killed. 25 

55 Engineer Operations; Ltr, Col Walker to Hist 
Div; 1103d Engr (C) Gp, 551st Hv Pon Bn, 537th 
Lt Pon Co, AAR's, Sep 44. The oolst's detailed 
account of heavy ponton bridge construction is 
particularly valuable. 



CHAPTER IV 



Build-Up and Expansion 

(13-15 September) 



A cold, driving rain began during the 
night of 12-13 September. By daylight 
the little bridgehead across the Moselle 
River was a morass of mud boding no 
good for the assembled armor and adding 
to the discomforts of the bat tie- weary- 
infantry. The infantrymen, who had 
seen little sleep for three days and four 
nights, were nonetheless grateful for a 
surcease from the fierce enemy counter- 
blows. Both the 1st and 2d Battalions, 
10th Infantry, atop Hills 370, 369, and 
386, had been reduced to 50 percent of 
their original strength, and battle fatigue 
had become a serious problem. 

Elsewhere in the bridgehead the 3d 
Battalion of the 11th Infantry (less Com- 
panies I and K, plus Companies B and 
C) continued to hold on the north flank 
in the southern edge of Corny, while the 
3d Battalion, 10th Infantry, remained in 
reserve around Voisage Farm. Also in 
assembled reserve were Companies B and 

C, 735th Tank Battalion; Company B 
and one platoon of Company C, 818th 
Tank Destroyer Battalion; Company B, 
814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (CCB); 
and Companies A, B, and C, 31st Tank 
Battalion (CCB). 

At approximately 0900 on 13 Septem- 
ber a platoon of light tanks of Company 

D, 735th Tank Battalion, with one 105- 
mm. assault gun and one 81 -mm. mortar 
attached, and the 5th Reconnaissance 



Troop crossed into the bridgehead to 
patrol south along the east bank of the 
river. No sooner had they headed south 
than they were stopped by intense enemy 
shellfire. 

Later in the morning the 1st Battalion, 
10th Infantry, sent a small foot patrol 
toward the troublesome south-flank town 
of Arry. By 1 100 the patrol's report was 
back, indicating promise for a drive to 
enlarge the bridgehead to the southeast: 
in Arry the riflemen had found only dead 
Germans and four enemy tanks, all 
knocked out; the town had been aban- 
doned. Another 1st Battalion patrol, 
going northeast from the battalion's 
positions on Hill 386, also made no enemy 
contact. In the afternoon another pa- 
trol, this time a platoon from the 3d 
Battalion, 10th Infantry, investigated 
Arry and confirmed the earlier findings. 
Asserting that it would take more than 
a platoon to defend the town, the patrol 
withdrew. Despite this evidence that 
Arry was not occupied, no 10th Infantry 
troops were sent to hold the town. The 
Americans feared overextension of their 
lines and felt that Arry, now reduced to 
a pile of rubble, could be controlled by 
the troops on Hill 386 and by direct fire 
from tank destroyers and Cannon Com- 
pany guns on the west-bank heights south 
of Arnaville. 

Thus, notwithstanding signs of a pos- 



88 



THREE BATTLES 



sible enemy withdrawal on the southeast 
and south of the bridgehead, little 
tangible effort was made immediately to 
exploit it. Although Brig. Gen. John M. 
Devine, new commander of CCB, came 
into the bridgehead in early afternoon 
with orders from the 5th Division to 
attack, intense enemy shelling, a lack of 
time for reconnaissance, and the deep 
mud that mired his tanks prompted him 
to ask that the attack be postponed until 
the next day. Permission was granted, 
and no further effort at expansion of the 
bridgehead was made during 1 3 Septem- 
ber. The remnants of the 23d Armored 
Infantry Battalion had already begun a 
march toward Arnaville and the bridge- 
head, where they would have partially 
remedied the shortage of infantry. They 
were halted at Onville because of the 
decision not to attack. The same enemy 
shelling that helped discourage General 
Devine also forced the engineers to 
abandon bridge construction temporarily. 
As for American artillery units, they 
passed their most inactive day of the 
operation, feeling the pinch of their 
ammunition shortage and firing only 
2,533 rounds. 1 

Nevertheless, plans for expanding the 
bridgehead were being made on 13 Sep- 
tember. The XX Corps commander 
initiated a reshuffling of units by directing 
the 90th Infantry Division to begin taking 
over a part of the 7th Armored Division 
sector west of Metz in order to permit 
CCA to prepare for movement into the 
Arnaville fight. This was the first step 
in a move which was eventually to release 

1 This section based on the following: Arnaville 
Artillery; Moselle River Crossing; Tenth Infantry; 
10th Inf, CCB, 3 1st Tk Bn, 735th Tk Bn, AAR's, 
Sep 44; 10th Inf Unit Jnl, 13 Sep 44; Ltr, Co] Shipley 
to Hist Div; Interv with Col Breckinridge. 



all of the 7th Armored Division and the 
2d Infantry combat team for the fight 
in the south. General Irwin, despite the 
shortages of men and equipment in the 
2d Battalion, 11th Infantry, alerted the 
1 1 th to be prepared to send another 
battalion into the bridgehead. Mean- 
while, General Irwin's headquarters is T 
sued Operations Instructions 13, confirm- 
ing previous verbal orders and calling, 
primarily, for movement of the remainder 
of CCB into the bridgehead. The in- 
structions also ordered a subsequent 
attack by the combat command to seize 
Mardigny, to the southeast of Arry, and 
by the 3d Battalion, 10th Infantry, to 
capture Hill 396. The day passed with- 
out significant developments on the 
ground except at the bridge site. 2 

Impasse on 14 September 

The morning of 14 September brought 
more rain, and attempted movement of 
armored vehicles produced only further 
churning of the muddy soil. The pro- 
posed attempt to expand the bridgehead 
to the south and southeast was again 
postponed. Although Battery B, 434th 
Armored Field Artillery Battalion (CCB), 
crossed the river into the bridgehead, 
artillery fire was so intense that the 
remainder of the battalion stayed in its 
positions west of Arnaville. Just after 
dark, the 23d Armored Infantry Bat- 
talion, still not wholly reconstituted after 
its Dornot battle, crossed to join the tanks 
of the 31st Tank Battalion. For the 
battered 10th Infantry in its positions 
atop Hills 370, 369, and 386 there was 

2 Irwin Diary; General Notes on Arnaville opera- 
tions; 10th Inf and 1 1th Inf Unit Jnls, 13 Sep 44; 5th 
Div G-3 Jnl, 13 Sep 44; XX Corps AAR, Sep 44; 
Moselle River Crossing. 



RIVER GROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



89 



some encouragement with the arrival of 
300 infantry replacements, including 
twenty-five inexperienced officers; but 
these men were going to forward bat- 
talions where battle fatigue had become 
a serious problem. When one soldier, 
a veteran of all the division's combat, had 
his carbine shot from his hand and his 
closest friend killed by a shell which fell 
near his foxhole, he jumped up screaming 
and ran toward the enemy lines. He was 
caught by a fellow soldier but had to be 
knocked unconscious before he could be 
quieted. Evacuated, he could not re- 
member what he had done. 

Enemy activity against the forward 
battalions consisted of continued shelling 
and occasional small reconnaissance pa- 
trols that harassed the fatigued Americans 
but were readily driven off. One such 
patrol was repulsed in an effort to go 
around the left flank of Company B, 1 1th 
Infantry, at Corny by swimming the 
river. 

In early morning two platoons of 
Company C 3 11th Infantry, relieved the 
Reconnaissance and Ammunition and 
Pioneer Platoons (3d Battalion, 11th 
Infantry) in the line between Companies 
L and B on the bridgehead's north flank. 
Then, in the afternoon, two platoons of 
Company L staged a raid on the bald 
crest of Hill 325 on the Cote de Faye, 
driving off an enemy defensive force of 
about twenty men who had been dug in 
and were supported by machine guns. 
Some twenty minutes later the same 
Germans counterattacked, but all were 
either killed or wounded. A larger enemy 
group counterattacked from the left flank 
about ten minutes later. Inasmuch as 
the Company L attack had been intended 
merely as a raid to discover the enemy 
positions and the bare hill could be con- 



trolled by fire, the two rifle platoons 
were ordered to withdraw to their posi- 
tions on the lower southeastern slopes of 
the hill. 

The 5th Reconnaissance Troop, which 
had crossed the day before and failed to 
complete its mission of patrolling south 
along the east bank of the river, tried 
again on 14 September and sent a patrol 
through Arry without enemy opposition 
except for artillery fire. Pushing out 
along the Arry-Lorry road, the patrol 
encountered an enemy pillbox. Two 
enemy soldiers were talked into coming 
out of the pillbox and surrendering; 
eighteen remained inside, and heavy 
mortar fire from beyond the hill forced 
the patrol to withdraw. Although Arry 
was still free of enemy, once again the 
Americans failed to occupy it. 

On this date XX Corps issued a new 
field order that instructed the 5th Divi- 
sion to expand its bridgehead and con- 
tinue the attack to capture Metz, while 
the 7th Armored Division was to cross 
into the bridgehead and make a swinging 
movement around the right flank through 
Mardigny. The armor was to force a 
hook around Metz from the southeast 
while the 5th Infantry Division attacked 
almost due north against the city. Al- 
ready relief of elements of the 7th Ar- 
mored had been started west of Metz by 
the 90th Division and eventually the 2d 
Infantry was to be returned to the 5th 
Division. But for the time being CCB's 
attachment to the 5th Division remained 
in force. 

Although the weather began to im- 
prove during the afternoon of 14 Sep- 
tember, a second delay in the attack was 
granted to permit regrouping and to 
allow further preparations. Regardless 
of weather, the attack was to be launched 



90 



THREE BATTLES 



the next morning, 15 September. The 
original 5th Division attack plan had to 
be altered somewhat when XX Corps 
protested that it was not ambitious 
enough to meet the orders assigned the 
division. As finally decided, CCB was 
to pass through Arry to capture Mardigny 
and subsequently to move northeast to 
take the village of Marieulles; the 3d 
Battalion, 10th Infantry, was to capture 
Hill 396; and the remainder of the di- 
vision was to build up on a line of 
departure for continuation of the attack 
on Metz. This line ran from north of 
Corny east and southeast to Marieulles, 
but no actual movement toward the line 
was made on the first day of the 
attack. 3 

Attack in the Fog — 15 September 

The morning of 15 September was 
cloudy, and the bridgehead area was 
covered with a heavy ground fog so dense 
that visibility was often reduced to be- 
tween ten and fifteen feet. Elements of 
CCB began moving from their assembly 
area at 0903, and, despite the fog, the 
thrice-delayed attack to expand the 
bridgehe ad jumped off toward the south. 
(Map7)\ 

For the attack CCB had been divided 
into two forces. Force I, under Colonel 
Erlenbusch, consisted of the 31st Tank 
Battalion (less Companies A and D) ; 

3 This section based on the following sources: 
CCB, 7th Armd Div, 5th Div, 434th Armd FA Bn, 
10th Inf, 11th Inf, AAR's, Sep 44; 7th Armd Div 
and 5th Div G-3 Jnls and Files, Sep 44; Tenth Infantry; 
Moselle River Crossing; General Notes on Arnaville 
operations; Combat Interv 38 with Birdsong, Simp- 
son-Lynch-Lathrop. See XX Corps FO 11; 5th 
Div FO 9; 5th Div Telephone Jnl; 5th Div Opns 
Instructions 14. All four in 5th Div G-3 Jnl File, 
14 Sep 44. 



Company B, 23d Armored Infantry Bat- 
talion; and Battery B, 434th Armored 
Field Artillery Battalion. It was to pass 
through Arry, capture Hill 385 to the 
south of Arry, then move on to take Hill 
400 in the Bois le Comte, and be prepared 
to capture Lorry and Mardigny on order. 
Force II, under Lt. Col. William H. G. 
Fuller, consisted of Company A, 31st 
Tank Battalion; the 23d Armored Infan- 
try Battalion (less Company B); and the 
434th Armored Field Artillery Battalion 
(less Battery B). Its mission was to 
attack south down the main Metz-Pont- 
a-Mousson highway to capture the village 
of Vittonville. The two forces were then 
to tie in at a trail junction on the southern 
nose of Hill 400 southwest of Mardigny. 

Initially CCB's Company B, 33d Ar- 
mored Engineer Battalion, was not to be 
broken into attachments but held in the 
original bridgehead assembly area with 
Company D, 31st Tank Battalion, as the 
combat command reserve. 4 Likewise, 
Company B, 814th Tank Destroyer Bat- 
talion, was initially to remain in the 
original bridgehead area and provide 
fire support on call. Except for Battery 
B, which had already crossed the river 
and was to fire from positions within the 
bridgehead, the 434th Armored Field 
Artillery Battalion was to support the 
attack from firing positions on the west- 
bank hills south of Arnaville. Additional 
support was to be provided by 5th 
Division and corps artillery units. For 
thirty minutes before H Hour, all the 
medium and heavy artillery was to 
direct counterbattery fire against located 
and suspected enemy artillery positions. 
Thereafter counterbattery fire would be 



* Records fail to show when either of these units 
crossed into the bridgehead. 



92 



THREE BATTLES 



continued by the 203d Field Artillery 
Group. From H Hour to H plus fif- 
teen minutes, concentrations were to 
be fired along Hill 385, and on other 
critical terrain features in the immediate 
area, including Hill 396, objective of the 
3d Battalion, 10th Infantry. Concen- 
trations were then to be shifted to Hill 
400 and the Bois le Comte from H plus 
fifteen to H plus thirty. Harassing fire 
on Lorry, Mardigny, and Vittonville was 
to be continued at intervals from thirty 
minutes before H Hour until H plus 
thirty. The line of departure, for the 
attack was to be an east-west line from 
Arry to the river, and the hour of attack 
0900. 5 

By 0915 Force I, led by the tanks of 
Company C with Company B, 31st Tank 
Battalion, and the infantry of Company 
B, 23d Armored Infantry Battalion, fol- 
lowing, had inched its way through the 
fog into Arry. Once past the town, the 
column began to encounter occasional 
resistance from small enemy groups, but 
these appeared eager to surrender when 
pressed. The main difficulty was still 
with fog and mud. A number of prison- 
ers had been taken by the time the first 
objective, Hill 385, was reached. At 
1030 the head of the column was on the 
second objective, Hill 400, in the Bois le 
Comte, and by the time the sun began to 
break through, shortly before noon, the 
remainder of Force I had moved forward 
and begun to consolidate its positions in 
preparation for attack on Lorry, Mar- 
digny, and Marieulles. 

Meanwhile Force II had proceeded 



5 CCB, 31st Tk Bn, 434th Armd FA Bn, I Oth Inf, 
AAR's, Sep 44; 10th Inf Unit Jnl, 15 Sep 44; CCB 
Unit Jnl and File, 15 Sep 44; Moselle River Crossing; 
Interv with Otto. 



south along the main east-bank high- 
way toward Vittonville. Initially a dis- 
mounted infantry attack, Force IPs 
advance was led by Company A, 23d 
Armored Infantry Battalion, supported 
by Company A, 31st Tank Battalion. 
By 1225 the leading elements, hampered 
at first by the fog and later by time- 
consuming ground opposition, including 
small arms and mortar fire, had pro- 
gressed no farther than a point due east of 
the west-bank town of Pagny. Appar- 
ently in an effort to speed the attack in 
view of the success of Force I, the tanks 
passed through the infantry; but still the 
attack moved slowly. It was not until 
about 1600 that the tanks and infantry 
halted on the northern edge of Vittonville 
to permit supporting artillery to fire a 
preparation against the town. In an 
hour and a half Vittonville was secured. 
The attack had cost Force II four men 
killed and five missing. 

A confusion in orders delayed Force Ps 
attack against Mardigny, and Lorry and 
Marieulles were left to be taken the next 
day. Force I was ordered at 1510 to 
prepare to attack Mardigny, but before 
a movement order was received CCB 
reverted to control of the 7th Armored 
Division. At 1740 Force I was told to 
remain on Hill 400 until relieved by 
elements of the 5th Division, whereupon 
Force I was to capture Mardigny. At 
1845 this order was negated by another 
ordering the immediate capture of Mar- 
digny. This time Company C, 31st 
Tank Battalion, accompanied by a pla- 
toon of Company B, 23d Armored Infan- 
try Battalion, moved out in the attack. 
Against only token ground opposition, 
Mardigny was captured and outposted 
by 2045. The remainder of Force I held 
for the night on Hill 400 in the Bois le 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



93 



Comte and was relieved early the next 
morning by elements of the 5th Division. 6 

Objective— Hill 396 

In conjunction with CCB's attack to 
the south, the 3d Battalion, 10th Infantry, 
supported by Companies B and C, 735th 
Tank Battalion, was ordered to capture 
Hill 396. This was the dominant terrain 
feature in the vicinity of the bridgehead, 
rising east of the 1st Battalion's long-held 
positions on Hill 386. From Hill 396 
one could observe the entire bridgehead 
and on clear days see as far north as 
Metz. 

Scheduled to begin at 0900, like the 
CCB attack, the 3d Battalion's attack 
was to follow an artillery barrage begin- 
ning at 0830 against Hill 396. The 
barrage was to shift later to enemy towns 
beyond the first hill mass. At first, the 
two tank companies were to lead, Com- 
pany B, 735th Tank Battalion, on the 
left and Company C, 735th, on the right. 
Close behind the left tank company was 
to be Company L, 10th Infantry, and 
behind the right tank company, Com- 
pany K. While the two left companies 
advanced through the 1st Battalion lines 
on Hill 386 in order to take advantage of 
some woods cover, the two right com- 
panies were to enter Arry and follow 
initially the Arry-Lorry road to a trail 
that branched to the northeast toward 
the objective, Hill 396. Company I, 
10th Infantry, was to move northeast 
from the friendly positions on Hill 386 
and block to the north in a wooded draw 



6 CCB, 31st Tk Bn, 23d Armd Inf Bn, 434th Armd 
FA Bn, AAR's, Sep 44; 10th Inf Unit Jnl, 15 Sep 44; 
Moselle River Crossing; General Notes on Arnaville 
operations. 



which separated Hill 386 from Hill 396, 
a logical avenue for enemy counterattack. 

Despite heavy ground fog and muddy 
footing, the attack moved off on time. 
On the right, the tanks of Company C, 
under Capt. Floyd R. Miller, followed 
by the infantry of Company K, passed 
through Arry by 0930. Moving along 
the Arry-Lorry road toward the trail 
they w r ere to follow to the objective, the 
tanks encountered a barricade across the 
road and reported to Major Shipley, the 
3d Battalion commander, that they could 
not pass. An exchange of messages fol- 
lowed between the tankers, Major Ship- 
ley, and the regimental command post, 
in which the infantry commanders ex- 
pressed doubt about the impregnability of 
the barricade. At 1025 the tanks had 
not yet moved forward, and Colonel Bell 
ordered the 3d Battalion to continue its 
attack without them. 7 

As the tanks had first moved out, the 
3d Battalion's two assault companies had 
followed closely. When the right tank 
company halted at the barricade, heavy 
enemy shelling centered to the rear of 
the tanks, catching the infantry in the 
open and causing heavy casualties and 
confusion, particularly in Company K. 
By the time the companies had reorgan- 
ized, the value of the preliminary artillery 
barrage against Hill 396 had been lost, 
and Lieutenant Dutko, the 1st Battalion 
artillery observer, had another barrage 
fired against the hill. The assault began. 

On the left, 1st Lt. Robert Brown's 
Company B tanks preceded the infantry 
by approximately 300 yards. The ad- 

7 10th Inf Unit Jnl, 15 Sep 44; Ltr, Col Bell to 
Hist Div. Company C, 735th Tank Battalion, had 
habitually worked with the 11th Infantry while 
Company B had worked with the 10th Infantry. 
This was Company C's first combat experience with 
the 10th Infantry. 



94 



THREE BATTLES 



vance moved without incident until it 
reached the ruins of the barrack-type 
buildings to the 1st Battalion's left front, 
which had housed a radar station and 
had served as a base for previous enemy 
counterattacks against Hill 386. There 
the Americans overcame token opposition 
by second-rate troops, thirty of whom 
soon surrendered, and the attack moved 
on toward the crest of the objective. 
Meeting fire from enemy pillboxes which 
had evidently been constructed for train- 
ing by the Metz military schools, the 
tanks fired to button up the defenses as 
the infantry stormed them. When the 
armor at one point got too far ahead of 
the infantry, one tank herded a group of 
prisoners back toward the advancing 
infantry while the others waited for the 
foot soldiers to catch up. By 1330, both 
Company L's infantry and Company B's 
tanks (except three that had mired on 
the muddy slopes of the hill) were firmly 
established on the objective. 

On the right, the attack had gone more 
slowly. Although Company K planned 
to advance without tank support, the 
Company C platoon of 1st Lt. James C. 
Blanchard, Jr., was ready to join it. 
But two of Lieutenant Blanchard's tanks 
mired early on the muddy slopes, and 
the others wandered off in the fog in the 
direction of Lorry, not to rejoin Company 
K's infantry until the objective had been 
taken. It was not until about 1500 that 
Company K was established on its por- 
tion of the hill. Later, two American 
tanks on the hill were damaged by enemy 
artillery fire; after Lieutenant Blanch- 
ard's tank arrived, an armor-piercing 
round from an enemy tank or antitank 
gun knocked it out as well. 

Hill 396, the dominant terrain feature 
in the vicinity of the bridgehead, was at 



last in American hands. Perhaps be- 
cause artillery missions were fired almost 
continuously against reported enemy 
assembly in woods northeast of the hill, 
expected German counterblows did not 
develop immediately on the ground. 
The enemy did react during the night 
and the next day with obviously pre- 
planned artillery concentrations. By this 
time Companies K and L had dug in 
deeply on the bald forward crest of the 
hill and suffered only minor casualties. 
The battalion headquarters was set up in 
the sole remaining barrack-type building, 
and Company I reorganized its blocking 
position in the draw between Hills 386 
and 396 to form a reserve for the 3d 
Battalion's defense. The tanks of Com- 
pany C, 735th Tank Battalion, were with- 
drawn to an assembly area near Arry, 
and Company B's tanks remained in 
reserve with Company I. 

Not until early morning on 17 Sep- 
tember did the Germans launch their 
counterblow on the ground, hitting Com- 
pany L from the northeast. Here for 
the first time in the Arnaville bridgehead 
area the Germans used troops from 
the Metz military schools. Coming in 
through the darkness, a number of enemy 
troops succeeded in moving into Com- 
pany L's positions. Close-in fighting 
resulted, and the battalion command post 
was threatened before Major Shipley 
committed his reserve company, Com- 
pany I, and one platoon of Company B, 
735th Tank Battalion. An attack by the 
reserve units up the northwest side of the 
hill restored the situation. 8 

8 Moselle River Crossing; General Notes on Arna- 
ville operations; Combat Interv 38 with Shipley - 
McCIuskey-Bradley-Baughman; Tenth Infantry; 10th 
Inf Unit Jnl, 15 Sep 44; 10th Inf", 735th Tk Bn, 46th 
FA Bn, AAR's, Sep 44; Ltr, Col Bell to Hist Div; 
Ltr, Col Shipley to Hist Div; Ltr, Lt Blanchard to 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



95 



The Bridgehead Is Secure 

With a firm northern anchor in Corny, 
southern anchors in Mardigny and Vit- 
tonville, possession of the vicinity's domi- 
nant terrain features, Hill 396 and Hill 
400, and two substantial bridges pro- 
viding ready access, the Arnaville bridge- 
head could be considered secure. Five 
days of bitter fighting had brought XX 
Corps its first successful Moselle crossing 
at a cost to the 10th Infantry Regiment 
alone of approximately twenty-five offi- 
cers and 700 men. The ill-fated Dornot 
crossing, which had cost the 1 1th Infantry 
Regiment and the 23d Armored Infantry 
Battalion almost as many casualties, had 
been an important element in the 10th 
Infantry's success, for it had held the 
enemy's attention during the initial 
stages of the Arnaville crossing. 

After the successful attacks of the 3d 
Battalion, 10th Infantry, and CCB on 15 
September, the bridgehead was strength- 
ened as relief of 7th Armored Division 
units to the northwest was continued and 

Hist Div; Interv with Shipley and Hays; Ltr, Maj 
Charles W. McClean (formerly S-3, 3d Bn, 10th 
Inf), to Col Shipley, 15 Apr 50, copy in OCMH files 
through courtesy of Col Shipley; Sum of Sit Rpt 
(telephoned), First Army, 1835, 17 Sep 44, found in 
Army Group G KTB 2, Anlagen J .IX.~30.IX.44. 



elements of CCR began crossing the 
Arnaville bridges. On 16 September 
CCA began to cross, and the 2d Infantry 
also began to move in. The 11th Infan- 
try, relieving its 1st Battalion (less Com- 
panies B and C, plus Companies I and 
K) in the defense north of Dornot with 
the reconstituted 2d Battalion, sent the 
1st Battalion into the bridgehead the 
afternoon of 16 September and assumed 
command of* the original bridgehead 
area. 

The attacks to break out of the bridge- 
head and capture Metz began again in 
early morning, 16 September, with the 
capture of Lorry by elements of CCB. 
Enemy guns were still able to shell the 
bridgehead area, including the bridge 
sites, and some of the fiercest fighting 
either the 5th Infantry or 7th Armored 
Division was to see in World War II 
remained before Metz itself fell. Not 
until 22 November did the battle for 
Metz, which had seen its real beginning 
in the river crossings at Dornot and Arna- 
ville, come to a ciose with the formal 
cessation of hostilities and the fall of the 
city. Four of the major forts still held 
out and it was not until 8 December that 
the last of them, Fort Driant, capitulated. 9 

9 For an account of this later action, see Cole, The 
Lorraine Campaign, Chs. Ill, VI, VIII, and IX. 



Order of Battle 



5th Infantry Division 

Headquarters, 5th Infantry Division 
Headquarters, Special Troops 
Headquarters Company 

705th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company 
5th Quartermaster Company 
5th Signal Company 
Military Police Platoon 
5th Infantry Division Band 

5th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop, Mechanized 

7th Engineer Combat Battalion (less Companies A, B, and C) 

5th Division Artillery, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery 

21st Field Artillery Battalion (155-mm. Howitzer) 
5th Medical Battalion (less Companies A, B, and C) 
2d Regimental Combat Team (attached to 7th Armored Division) 

2d Infantry Regiment 

50th Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm. Howitzer) 
Company A, 7th Engineer Combat Battalion 
Company A, 5th Medical Battalion 
10th Regimental Combat Team 
10th Infantry Regiment 

46th Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm. Howitzer) 
Company B, 7th Engineer Combat Battalion 
Company B, 5th Medical Battalion 
11th Regimental Combat Team 
11th Infantry Regiment 

19th Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm. Howitzer) 
Company C, 7th Engineer Combat Battalion 
Company C, 5th Medical Battalion 

Attached to 5th Division 

1103d Engineer Combat Group 

150th Engineer Combat Battalion 
160th Engineer Combat Battalion 
204th Engineer Combat Battalion 
551st Engineer Heavy Ponton Battalion 
989th Engineer Treadway Bridge Company 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



97 



537th Engineer Light Ponton Company 

623d Engineer Light Equipment Company 
84th Chemical (Smoke Generator) Company 
Troop C, 3d Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron 
284th Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm. Howitzer) 
449th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion 
818th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Self-Propelled) 
735th Tank Battalion (Medium) 
Combat Command B, 7th Armored Division 

31st Tank Battalion (Medium) 

23d Armored Infantry Battalion 

434th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm, Howitzer, Self-Propelled) 
Company B, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Self-Propelled) 
Company B, 33d Armored Engineer Battalion 

In Support of 5th Division 

Headquarters, XX Corps Artillery 
5th Field Artillery Group 

695th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm. Howitzer, Self-Propelled) 
558th Field Artillery Battalion (155-mm. Gun, Self-Propelled) 
274th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm. Howitzer, Self-Propelled) 
204th Field Artillery Group 

177th Field Artillery Battalion (155-mm. Howitzer) 
773d Field Artillery Battalion (4.2-inch Gun) 
943d Field Artillery Battalion (155-mm. Howitzer) 
33d Field Artillery Brigade 

203d Field Artillery Group 

739th Field Artillery Battalion (8-inch Howitzer) 
989th Field Artillery Battalion (155-mm. Gun) 
999th Field Artillery Battalion (8-inch Howitzer) 
270th Field Artillery Battalion (240-mm. Howitzer) 
277th Field Artillery Battalion (240-mm. Howitzer) 



Bibliographical Note 



Soon after the Arnaville action, 2d Lt. 
F. M. Ludden, of the 3d Information and 
Historical Service, conducted a series of 
combat interviews with the battle partici- 
pants. One such interview was con- 
tributed by Capt. Harry A. Morris, 
These combat interviews, together with 
preliminary narratives written by Lieu- 
tenant Ludden, make up the basic ma- 
terial from which "River Crossing at 
Arnaville" was constructed. The inter- 
views are with eleven officers and enlisted 
men of the 10th and 11th Infantry 
Regiments and with unnamed soldiers 
of the 735th Tank Battalion and the 
1103d Engineer Combat Group. The 
same file contains also a particularly 
valuable preliminary narrative entitled 
Engineer Operations at Arnaville, a 
narrative by Lt. Col. Levin B. Cotting- 
ham entitled Employment of a Smoke 
Generator Company in an Assault Cross- 
ing of the Moselle River, and preliminary 
notes by Lieutenant Ludden on the 
Arnaville crossing. 

The 10th and 11th Infantry preserved 
not only their regimental journals but 
several battalion journals, containing 
messages and orders. The 5th Division 
G-3 Journal includes occasional tran- 
scripts of telephone conversations which 
reveal the tense atmosphere that some- 
times prevailed. The After Action Re- 
ports, compiled at the close of the month, 
are susceptible, as are most such reports, 
to error and the palliative powers of 
hindsight. A notable exception is the 
After Action Report of the 551st Engineer 
Heavy Ponton Battalion, which gives 



detailed and apparently reliable informa- 
tion on bridge construction. After Ac- 
tion Reports, unit journals, and journal 
files of all units involved, from battalion 
through corps, were examined. All such 
unit records, as well as the combat inter- 
views, are in possession of the Historical 
Records Section, Office of the Adjutant 
General. Company morning reports, 
which usually contain little information 
that is not more readily available else- 
where, were examined to determine the 
casualties in the Dornot battle. Photo- 
static copies of these are filed with the 
Office of the Chief of Military History 
(formerly the Historical Division, Special 
Staff, U. S. Army). 

A preliminary study by Dr. Paul W. 
Pritchard for the Historical Section, 
Office of the Chief of the Chemical Corps, 
was the basic document for constructing 
the story of the 84th Chemical (Smoke 
Generator) Company. This study is 
generally excellent, despite a slight tend- 
ency to overemphasize the importance of 
the screening operations. Another valu- 
able source on this subject is an article 
by Colonel Cottingham, entitled "Smoke 
Over the Moselle" and published in The 
Infantry Journal. 

Primary source for air material was 
the Operations File of the XIX Tactical 
Air Command. Air records are in the 
Historical Archives, Historical Division, 
Air University Library, Maxwell Air 
Force Base, Alabama. 

A number of published unit histories 
exist but have been used in this study 
only as secondary sources. These his- 



RIVER CROSSING AT ARNAVILLE 



99 



tories, apparently prepared from Lieu- 
tenant Ludden's combat interviews and 
from unit records, are unofficial and have 
a tendency to color the action, at times 
to the point of error in basic fact. The 
Third U. S. Army After Action Report, 
a work about which such criticism is not 
applicable, is useful for background 
information. 

Because the combat interviews and 
unit records left a number of major gaps 
in details of the action, the author con- 
ducted several postwar interviews and 
extensive correspondence with surviving 
participants. The information thus elic- 
ited proved valuable, especially in pre- 
senting the confused command picture 
in the vicinity of Dornot on 7-8 Septem- 
ber. In no instance, however, has the 
historian accepted postwar material as 
refutation of any fact which can be 
established from contemporary records. 
These letters and interviews have been 
filed with the OCMH. 

Sources for German material were 
postwar manuscripts prepared by cap- 
tured German officers; letters, orders, 
and reports found in an annex to the 
KTB (War Diary) of Army Group G; and 
a detailed account of the Dornot action 
found in war diary pages constituting 
part of a miscellaneous file of the 2d 
Battalion, 37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regi- 
ment. The postwar manuscripts, pre- 
pared under the direction of the Historical 



Section, U. S. Forces, ETO, and depend- 
ing almost entirely on the unaided 
memories of their writers, add immeas- 
urably to knowledge of the enemy 
operations. MS # B-042 (Krause), of 
particular value in preparing this study,, 
is detailed and apparently accurate and 
unbiased. The annexes to the KTB of 
Army Group G are at a level of command 
too high to be of much value in a small 
unit account such as this, but in some 
instances they were the only German 
documentary source available. Because 
few enemy records at a small unit level 
survived the war, the war diary pages of 
the 2d Battalion, 37th SS Panzer Grenadier 
Regiment, constitute an almost unique 
source. This source was used extensively 
to provide an enemy account of the 
Dornot action which is admittedly out 
of focus with the level of narration of the 
enemy story in the Arnaville battle, but 
its intrinsic interest and value were con- 
sidered sufficient to warrant such irregu- 
larity. German manuscripts are to be 
found in the OCMH files, and official 
German records are in the German Mili- 
tary Documents Section, Departmental 
Records Branch, Office of the Adjutant 
General. Additional material on the 
enemy side was obtained from G~2 
Journals and files of the 5th Infantry and 
7th Armored Divisions. Prisoner of war 
reports, when checked against enemy 
materials, proved generally accurate. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT 
MONTE ALTUZZO 




the story of the 338th In- 
fantry Regiment, 85th In- 
fantry Division, in the 
penetration of the Gothic 
Line in Italy. 



by Sidney T. Mathews 



CHAPTER I 



Developing the Gothic Line 

(10-13 September) 



This is the story of an American break- 
through in the mountains of Italy. It 
describes the main effort of an army that 
numbered 262,000 troops and included 
ten combat divisions. Of this mighty 
force, less than a thousand men — one 
third of 1 percent — made the principal 
attack. The assault force that actually 
closed with the enemy and bore the 
brunt of the fighting at the critical point 
was sometimes as small as a single platoon 
and never larger at any one time than 
two rifle companies of some 350 men. 
When a prize fighter strikes a blow against 
his opponent, his fist alone makes con- 
tact. So it is with the main effort of a 
modern military force: a fraction of its 
bulk acts as the fist and delivers the punch 
in the name of the entire army. 

On 10 September 1944, the II Corps 
of the Fifth United States Army launched 
an attack across the Sieve River in an 
effort to reach the next major German 
defenses, the formidable Gothic Line 
stretching east-west across 170 miles of 
the rugged North Apennine Mountains. 1 
Map For almost a year the Ger- 

mans had been using forced labor to 



1 The name "Gothic Line" (Gotenstellung), used by 
the Germans throughout the first half of 1944, was 
changed to "Green Line" when the Allies began to 
threaten the position. The former designation only 
will be used herein. 



reinforce the natural defensive strength 
of the mountains with pillboxes, mine 
fields, and tank barriers, particularly 
along the limited number of mountain 
roads. Because terrain along north- 
south Highway 65 through the Futa Pass 
did not afford an effective natural barrier, 
some of the strongest positions had been 
concentrated in front of it. 

Since the British Eighth Army had 
already broken through a portion of the 
Gothic Line along the Adriatic coast, the 
Fifth Army's attack was designed to 
supplement and exploit the British ad- 
vance. It was originally scheduled to 
be launched against the Futa Pass; when 
intelligence information revealed the 
German strength there, the main Fifth 
Army effort by the II Corps on 10 Sep- 
tember was directed instead at il Giogo 
Pass, on Highway 6524, seven miles 
southeast of the Futa Pass. A penetra- 
tion through the Giogo Pass could be 
expected to outflank the enemy strength 
at the Futa Pass. 2 

It was recognized that any successful 
attack against the Giogo Pass would 



1 AAI Opns Order 3, 16 Aug 44, Annex B from 
Capt John Bowditch, Fifth Army History, Pt. VII 
(Washington, 1947), pp. 201-04; II Corps FO 23, 
5 Sep 44, Fifth Army G-3 Jnl Files, Sep 44. This 
volume of the Fifth Army History contains an excellent 
description of the North Apennines Campaign, 
within the limits of documents available during the 
war. 



104 



THREE BATTLES 



require capture of the dominant terrain 
features on either side of Highway 6524: 
the Monticelli hill mass on the west (left) 
and Mont e Altuzzo on the east (right). 
jMap JV)\ The 91st Infantry Division 
(Maj. Gen. William G. Livesay), spear- 
heading the American drive, was sched- 
uled to reach the outpost line in front of 
these two mountains, there to be relieved 
partially by the 85th Infantry Division, 
under the command of Maj. Gen. John 
B. Coulter, which was then to make the 
main effort on a narrow front against the 
dominating peak, Monte Altuzzo. The 
91st Division was to co-ordinate by taking 
Monticelli while one of its regiments and 
the 34th Infantry Division made holding 
attacks farther west. Armor concentra- 
tions and heavy air action around the 
Futa Pass were designed to deceive the 
enemy into thinking the main attack was 
to be launched there, but II Corps artil- 
lery was to give maximum support to the 
effort at the Giogo Pass. 3 

The 363d Infantry of the 91st Division 
crossed the Sieve River and advanced to 
the Gothic Line against relatively light 
German resistance. On the night of 11 
September the regiment found itself ap- 
proximately 2,000 yards south of Monti- 
celli and Monte Altuzzo. 4 Since stiff 
opposition had failed to develop, the II 
Corps commander, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey 
Keyes, kept the 85th Division in reserve 
and ordered the 91st Division to continue 
its attack the next morning (12 Septem- 



3 II Corps FO 23, 5 Sep 44. 

4 1st Lt Ralph E. Strootman, 363d Inf Unit 
History, MS, Ch. Ill, "The Gothic Line" (hereafter 
cited as Strootman MS). Lt Strootman wrote this 
study in early 1944. Unofficial Notes of Capt Robert 
F. Muller, S-3, 3d Bn, 363d Inf (hereafter cited as 
Muller Notes). Capt Muller made these notes 
during the Gothic Line battles. 



ber). It was to advance as far as possible 
toward the two dominating peaks. 5 

The Terrain and the Enemy 

The German defense of the Giogo Pass 
sector of the Gothic Line was based on a 
group of 3,000-foot peaks, including. 
Monte Altuzzo and Monticelli, which 
flanked either side of the pass. From 
these peaks eroding streams had cut 
north-south spurs and ridges parallel to 
the planned axis of advance, dividing the 
terrain into compartments and pockets 
that provided excellent defensive loca- 
tions. Heavy stands of pine trees covered 
the northwest slopes of Monte Altuzzo 
and the area west of the pass, and oak 
trees grew on the lower slopes of Monte 
Verruca (east of Monte Altuzzo). Else- 
where the ridges were overlaid with rocky 
soil, low brush, or grass, sparsely inter- 
spersed with scattered trees. What little 
concealment there was for an attacking 
force came from the unevenness of the 
slopes; and the high peaks gave the de- 
fenders observation for miles to the south. 

The only possible route for an armored 
attack against the Giogo Pass was the 
main road, Highway 6524, which was 
narrow, full of sharp turns, and flanked 
by the bare slopes of Monticelli and by 
Monte Altuzzo. Since antitank weapons 
could easily bring effective fire on the 
highway, enemy engineers had devoted 
most of their efforts to developing strong 
infantry positions and had constructed 
heavy pillboxes and bunkers on the ad- 
jacent mountains. Some positions had 
been blasted from solid rock; others had 
been dug into the ground and built of 
heavy logs. In many positions, machine 

5 91st Div and 85th Div G-3 Jnls, 11-12 Sep 44; 
II Corps AAR, Sep 44. 



Hill 1029 




THE BATTLEGROUND 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



105 



guns had been placed for interlocking 
cross fire, and in a number of cases barbed 
wire and antipersonnel mines had been 
laid across the approaches. Behind the 
main firing positions other bunkers, 
primarily of thick log construction, had 
been built, generally on the north slopes 
of the mountains, to house mobile coun- 
terattack reserves. 

Towering above the highway south- 
west of the pass, the Monticelli hill mass 
was a long, steep, backbone ridge with a 
concave southern slope. East of the 
highway, Monte Altuzzo was a high 
conical peak that rose to 3,037 feet, 181 
feet above Monticelli, and curved 650 
yards north-northwest down to the Giogo 
Pass. From Monte Altuzzo's highest 
peak, Hill 926, a main north-south ridge 
ran south 2,500 yards, a wavy, undulating 
hill mass with narrow draws cutting its 
slopes into uneven arms. Along this 
main ridge line were at least seven 
distinct hills or knobs, five of them south 
of Hill 926; from south to north, they 
were Hills 578, 624, 782, two unnum- 
bered knobs which will be called Knobs 
1 and 2, Hill 926, and another unnum- 
bered knob which will be known as 
Knob 3. 

Along the entire main ridge south of 
Hill 926, the ridge line was exiremely 
narrow, varying in width from one to 
ten yards. North of Hill 782, any ad- 
vance up the eastern slope toward the 
crest. Hill 926, was virtually impossible. 
Although this slope was not an escarp- 
ment, the gradient was too steep and the 
rocks were too precipitous. Besides, from 
higher points on the main ridge — from 
Pian di Giogo, which stretched between 
the northern slopes of Altuzzo and Monte 
Verruca to the east, and from the western 
arm of Verruca itself — the enemy could 



observe and cover with fire any attempt 
to advance up Altuzzo's eastern slope. 
On the western side of the mountain 
beyond Hill 782 the slope was less pre- 
cipitous but even more exposed to enemy 
fire. In this area the Germans had built 
a main line of resistance (MLR) along 
the upper rim of a huge bowl, formed 
by the main Altuzzo ridge and a promi- 
nent spur curving west and southwest 
from Hill 926, which extended 200 yards 
north and 500 yards west of Hill 782. 
The prepared positions of this line ran 
from Knob 2, about 250 yards short of 
the crest of the mountain, for 200 yards 
northwest along a trail which skirted the 
top of the bowl to the peak of the western 
ridge extending 500 yards to the west of 
Hill 926. On the peak of the western 
ridge German engineers had blasted 
bunker positions out of rock. Two bunk- 
ers covered the bowl, including the slopes 
of the main ridge north of Hill 782; about 
halfway down the bowl other mutually 
supporting positions could bring fire on 
the lower ground around the base of the 
bowl. Well screened by camouflage, 
trees, and heavy brush along the upper 
slopes, the main German positions cov- 
ered the exposed approaches over the 
lower slopes of the bowl and along the 
main ridge line north from Hill 782. 
Scattered trees, bare rocks, and low brush 
along the lower slopes of the bowl offered 
scant concealment for attacking troops, 
and north of Hill 782 the narrowness of 
the ridge line offered no room for 
deployment. 

About 300 to 500 yards in front of the 
main line of resistance, the enemy had 
erected an outpost line on the southwest 
slopes of Hill 782. Consisting of three 
log bunkers and an open zigzag trench, 
these outer defenses were spaced at 



106 



THREE BATTLES 



irregular intervals and were covered by 
a weak barrier of barbed wire. From 
them the Germans could place effective 
rifle and machine gun fire in the draws 
on either side of the mountain and on the 
lower slopes of the main ridge. Besides 
utilizing this outpost line, the Germans 
had attempted to canalize any attack 
against Monte Altuzzo by erecting a band 
of barbed wire fifteen to twenty yards 
deep across the western ridge of the 
mountain (the west side of the bowl). 
No wire had been laid across the central 
and eastern slopes of the bowl, evidently 
because the enemy relied on the mutually 
supporting machine gun and rifle posi- 
tions to beat back assaults. 6 

Facing the American attack was the 
4th Parachute Division of the / Parachute 
Corps of the Fourteenth Army. Except for a 
small nucleus of experienced paratroop- 
ers who had been combat-schooled at 
Anzio, most troops in this division were 
inexperienced boys with only three 
months' training. The division's re- 
serves were green troops who had never 
fired ball cartridges, so inexperienced 
that the commander of the / Parachute 
Corps stated his intention to use the 
reserves as pack animal drivers. 7 



6 Notes of numerous terrain reconnaissances of the 
Altuzzo and Giogo Pass areas by the author, including 
those with the following: Lt Col Willis O. Jackson 
and his three rifle company comdrs, Capts Robert A. 
King, Maurice E. Peabody, Jr., and Redding C. 
Souder, Jr.; several plat ldrs and plat sgts; Gapt 
Peabody and several of his NCO's; 2d Lt William 
A. Thompson and enlisted survivors of Co C, 338th 
Inf. (Ranks given for personnel interviewed are 
those held at the time of the interview. Ranks given 
in the text and index are those held at the time of 
the action. Detailed information concerning terrain 
reconnaissances and combat interviews may be found 
in the Bibliographical Note.) 

7 Entry of 13 Sep 44, Armeeoberkommando 14, Kriegs- 
tagebuch Nr. 4 (War Diary 4 of Headquarters Fourteenth 
Army), 1 ,V II -30 .IX .44 (hereafter cited as Fourteenth 



The Fourteenth Army as a whole had 
suffered heavy casualties in the Allied 
breakout from the Anzio beachhead and 
the pursuit to the Arno River. Although 
the halt of the Allied offensive at the end 
of July had given the Germans as well as 
the Americans a chance to absorb rein- 
forcements and equipment, Fourteenth 
Army's strength was well below that of 
the Fifth U. S. Army. It had been 
weakened even further after the British 
Eighth Army had launched its earlier 
Adriatic coast attack and four German 
divisions had been shifted to the Tenth 
Army on the east to meet this threat. At 
no more than half strength, each division 
left in the Fourteenth Army held a long front 
averaging ten miles, and the army's 
reserves were reduced to two battalions 
of the Grenadier Lehr Brigade. 8 

Despite the shortage of front-line troops 
and reserves, the enemy intended to hold 
the Gothic Line as long as his limited 
resources would permit. On 8 Septem- 
ber each soldier in the 12th Parachute 
Regiment, 4th Parachute Division, had re- 
ceived orders that "... the position is to 
be held to the last man and the last 
bullet even if the enemy breaks through 
on all sides as well as against strongest 
artillery or mortar fire. Only on au- 

Army KTB 4). German information used in this 
account, except that taken from intelligence files, 
is based primarily on this war diary. 

8 Entries of 10-13 Sep 44, Fourteenth Army KTB 4; 
338th Inf and 85th Div Intel Sums, IPW Rpts, and 
misc Intel Rpts, Sep 44; MID, The German Opera- 
tion at Anzio, filed in OCMH. This last publication 
is based on earlier volumes of the Fourteenth Army war 
diary. 

The so-called Lehr units in the German Army were 
composed of picked men and were originally used to 
demonstrate tactics at service schools in the zone of 
interior. Because of the growing manpower shortage, 
however, many of these units were transferred intact 
to active theaters and used in combat. Cf. Artillery 
Lehr Regiment. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



107 



thority of the company commander may 
the position be abandoned." 9 

The 363d Infantry Attacks 

The 91st Division launched its 12 Sep- 
tember attack in the early morning with 
the 363d Infantry making the main effort 
up Highway 6524 to capture Monticelli 
and Monte Altuzzo. While the 1st Bat- 
talion kept pressure on the enemy on the 
left flank, the 3d Battalion attempted to 
seize the two objectives. Company K 
pushed toward Monticelli; Company I 
toward Fonte Fredda along the highway 
between the two mountains; and Com- 
pany L toward Monte Altuzzo. 

German resistance stiffened, and nei- 
ther of the division's attacking regiments 
got farther than the enemy's outpost 
positions. 10 The II Corps commander, 
General Keyes, thereupon ordered his 
original plan for a co-ordinated attack 
to go into effect at 0600 the next morning. 
While the 34th Division on the left wing 
and the 91st Division in the center kept 
pressure on the enemy, the 85th Division, 
taking over the attack zone east of High- 
way 6524, would make the main effort to 
seize Monte Altuzzo and the Giogo Pass. 
The weight of the 91st Division attack 
was to fall against Monticelli along the 
west side of Highway 6524. General 
Keyes ordered the 91st Division to con- 
tinue pressure on the enemy through the 
day of the 12th and to advance as far as 
possible before the 85th Division launched 
the main effort. The II Corps com- 
mander realized that there would be 
confusion when the 85th Division units 



9 Captured order to soldiers of 12th Pcht Regt {4th 
Pcht Div), 8 Sep 44, 338th Inf S-2 Files. 

^Strootman MS; 91st Div G-3 Jnl, 12 Sep 44; 
Fifth Army G-3 Jnl File, 12-13 Sep 44. 



passed through the 91st Division before 
the latter was ordered to halt its attack. 
He believed, however, that uninterrupted 
pressure against the enemy was necessary 
until the 85th Division took over the 
main effort. 11 

Although the 91st Division commander 
was not anxious for the 363d to attack 
that night, the 363d Infantry commander 
wanted to take Monticelli and Monte 
Altuzzo and secured division approval to 
continue the operation. 12 He ordered 
his 3d Battalion to continue the regiment's 
principal mission. The battalion planned 
to jump off again shortly after dark on 12 
September in a night attack. Company 
I, 363d, was to capture Monticelli; Com- 
pany L, Monte Altuzzo. 13 

Again the attack met with little suc- 
cess. Company I, after making an 
encouraging early advance, was pushed 
back to the cluster of houses at I'Uomo 
Morto on Highway 6524. 14 Company 
L's commander became confused in the 
darkness and led his company by mistake 
to the southwestern slopes of Monte 
Verruca. Some time after midnight he 
radioed his error to his battalion head- 
quarters and then moved his company 



11 II Corps Opns Instns 23, II Corps G-3 Sup- 
porting File, Sep 44; Memo, Lt Col Thomas R. 
McDonald, 85th Div G-3, 12 Sep 44, regarding a 
conference of G-3's of the 85th Div, 91st Div, and 
II Corps, in 85th Div G-3 Supporting File, Sep 44; 
85th Div and 91st Div G 3 Jnls, 12 13 Sep 44; Interv 
with Col Robert W. Porter, II Corps DCofS, 30 
June 50. 

12 Interv with Col W. Fulton Magill (formerly CO, 
363d Inf), Washington, D. C, 5 Jul 49 (hereafter 
cited as Interv with Magill); Interv with Maj Gen 
William G. Livesay (formerly CG, 91st Inf Div), 
Fort Knox, Ky., 5 May 50. All interviews in this 
study were conducted by the author. 

13 Interv with Magill; Muller Notes; Combat Interv 
with Capt Thomas M. Draney; Strootman MS. 

14 Strootman MS; Muller Notes; 91st Div G-3 
Jnl, 12 Sep 44, 




I NF ANTR YM E N IN FULL FIELD EQUIPMENT advancing toward the Gothic Line 
on 10 September 1944. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



109 



west. Not long before dawn he reached 
Hill 578, the lowest knob on the main 
Altuzzo ridge line. There again the 
company commander lost his bearings; 
he reported that he was on Hill 782 and 
that the crest of Monte Altuzzo (Hill 926) 
was the next rise straight ahead. Ac- 
tually the peak before him, hiding the 
crest from his view, was Hill 782. With 
orders to push on, Company L moved up 
the southern slope of Hill 782 until its 
leading platoons reached barbed wire 
defenses and received fire from German 
machine guns in bunkers forming the out- 
post line of the main line of resistance. 
Shortly after daylight on 13 September, 
Company L, after a stiff fire fight, cap- 
tured six prisoners and silenced three 
bunkers before heavy artillery, mortar, 
and machine gun fire halted the attack. 15 
In taking the three enemy bunkers, the 
troops of the 363d Infantry created a 
confused situation. Soon after the night 
attack had begun, wire communications 
to the 363d's battalions had failed, and 
at daylight the regiment knew almost 
nothing of its 3d Battalion's location. 
Only a half hour before the 85th Division 
was to launch its attack, the 363d Infan- 
try reported its Company L on the eastern 
slope of Hill 782 approximately 200 yards 
from the crest of the hill. Even then the 
regiment knew nothing of Company L's 
situation.i 6 The 85th Division's 338th 
Infantry, scheduled to take over Com- 
pany L's zone for an 0600 attack and to 
use the 91st Division's farthest advance 
as its line of departure, was thoroughly 
confused by meager, contradictory, and 



15 Combat Interv with Draney; Rpt, unidentified 
soldier, Co L, 363d Inf, in 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 13 
Sep 44. 

16 91st Div G-3 Jnl, 12-13 Sep 44; Combat Interv 
with Draney; Interv with Magill. 



indefinite reports. 17 Thus the II Corps 
attack against the Gothic Line began in 
confusion. 

As Fifth Army drew up to the Gothic 
Line, the Germans deduced from armored 
and heavy bombing attacks that the 
Americans would make their main attack 
in the Futa Pass area. To meet the 
threat Fourteenth Army on 11 September 
shifted the left flank of the 362d Grenadier 
Division to the east and requested Army 
Group C to hold one regimental group in 
readiness for use at Futa Pass. At the 
risk of straining its west coast defenses, 
Army Group C announced on 12 September 
that it would speed withdrawal of a 
regimental group from the 16th SS Panzer 
Grenadier Division for movement to the 
Futa Pass. The enemy had not yet 
ascertained that the main American 
effort would be made against the Giogo 
Pass. 18 

Attack Preparations, 338th Infantry 

At approximately 0915, 12 September, 
Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark, Fifth Army 
commander, and General Keyes stopped 
at the 338th Infantry command post and 
talked briefly with Lt. Col. Willis O. 
Jackson and Lt. Col. Robert H. Cole, 
the 1st and 2d Battalion commanders, 
and Maj. Sherburne J. Heliker, the regi- 
mental S-3. General Clark told the 
infantry commanders: "You had better 
get on your hiking shoes. I'm going to 
throw you a long forward pass into the 
Po Valley, and I want you to go get it." 19 
Such was the long-range importance of 
the Giogo Pass attack. 

17 Combat Intervs with the following: Jackson and 
Capt Thomas M. Quisenberry; 1st Lt Dawson L. 
Farber, Jr.; Peabody. 

18 Entries of 9-12 Sep 44, Fourteenth Army KTB 4. 

19 Combat Intervs with Cole and with Jackson. 



110 



THREE BATTLES 



About noon on 12 September, the 
regimental commander of the 338th 
Infantry, Col. William H. Mikkelsen, 
went to the 85th Division command post 
(CP) to receive the attack order. 20 It 
called for the 338th Infantry on the left 
to take over part of the 363d Infantry 
zone for the main effort against Monte 
Altuzzo. On the right the 339th Infan- 
try would attack Monte Verruca. On 
the assumption that the main objective 
in the Giogo area, Monte Altuzzo, would 
still be in enemy hands at H Hour, the 
338th Infantry was to jump off from 
whatever forward positions elements of 
the 91st Division reached during the 
night. 21 

Between one third and one half of the 
338th Infantry had experienced two 
months of combat against the heavy 
Gustav Line near the Garigliano River 
and in the drive through the mountains 
to Rome. Nearly all had at least been 
indoctrinated during a ten-day period in 
August with patrols and holding action 
along the Arno River. The regiment 
then had been out of the line for several 
weeks of rest and training in mountain 
assaults. During the II Corps advance 
toward the Gothic Line, the 338th In- 
fantry and the other elements of the 85th 
Division had moved on the night of 11 
September by motor convoy across the 
Arno River at Florence and up Highway 
65 to Vaglia, some ten to twelve miles 
south of the 91st Division's front lines. 22 

20 Combat Intervs with Mikkelsen and with 
Jackson. 

21 85th Div and 91st Div G-3 Jnls, 12 Sep 44; II 
Corps FO 23, 5 Sep 44; Fifth Army G-3 Jnl Files, 
Sep 44; Memo, Col McDonald, regarding G-3 con- 
ference, 85th Div G-3 Supporting File, Sep 44. 

22 Combat Intervs with all surviving offs and EM, 
1st Bn, 338th Inf; 1st Bn, 2d Bn, 3d Bn, 338th Inf, 
Unit Jnls, Sep 44; 338th Inf Unit Jnl, Sep 44; 85th 
Div G-3 Jnl, 11-12 Sep 44. 



Since the 338th had known for several 
days that it would make the main attack 
against Monte Altuzzo, its officers had 
initiated preliminary plans based on 
detailed map study. An intelligence 
summary had been distributed to the 
battalions indicating that, although the 
enemy had not done as much work on 
the Giogo positions as on other parts of 
the Gothic Line, they formed nonetheless 
a "formidable defense sector." A second 
intelligence summary put out with the 
338th's attack order indicated that the 
enemy's intentions regarding defense of 
the pass were not yet clear. It alluded 
optimistically to the poor quality of enemy 
troops. From prisoners of war captured 
by elements of the 91st Division it had 
been learned that the 12th Parachute Regi- 
ment, 4th Parachute Division, was defending 
the area. 23 

In midafternoon of 12 September Colo- 
nel Mikkelsen, the 338th commander, 
issued the regimental attack order. The 
1st Battalion, commanded by Colonel 
Jackson, was to make the main effort, 
seizing Hill 926, the crest of Monte 
Altuzzo. The 2d Battalion, under the 
command of Colonel Cole, was to attack 
on the left along Highway 6524 to Point 
770, between Monticelli and Monte 
Altuzzo. The theory was that pressure 
along the highway would assist the main 
effort against Monte Altuzzo. In reserve 
the 3d Battalion, commanded by Maj. 
Lysle E. Kelley, was to follow the 1st up 
the main ridge. All battalions were to 
move soon after dark to forward assembly 
areas from which they were to launch the 
attack at 0600 the next morning. All 
three were at full strength, carried normal 
allowances of equipment and combat 

23 S-2 Memo on the Giogo Pass Defenses, 7 Sep 44, 
Annex to 338th Inf FO 3, 10 Sep 44. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



111 



loads of ammunition, and could be 
reinforced from a regimental replacement 
pool of 250 men. 24 

The artillery plan for the attack in- 
volved use of the 329th Field Artillery 
Battalion (105-mm. howitzers) for direct- 
support fires on call from the 338th 
Infantry. In general support of the 
entire division were to be two other field 
artillery battalions of the 85th Division, 
the 328th (105-mm. howitzers), prepared 
to mass fires on call in either of the 85th 
Division regimental sectors, and the 403d 
(155-mm. howitzers) for precision and 
destruction fires and for long-range 
neutralization and harassing missions in 
the division zone. (The remaining bat- 
talion of 85th Division artillery was in 
direct support of the 339th Infantry.) 
Reinforcing fires would be provided by 
the 752d Tank Battalion (Medium) and 
the 805th Tank Destroyer Battalion 
(Self-Propelled), which had also the 
mission of providing antimechanized de- 
fense. Also in general support of the 
85th Division was to be the 178th Field 
Artillery Group, which included three 
155-mm. howitzer battalions and one 
4.5-inch gun battalion. For long-range 
counterbattery fire and especially for 
knocking out heavy enemy fortifications, 
the 423d Field Artillery Group, consisting 
of two battalions (less one section) of 
240-mm. howitzers, three sections of 
8-inch guns, and two battalions of 155- 
mm. guns, was to provide general support 

24 Combat Intervs with Jackson, Cole, and Mikkel- 
sen, and postwar interv with Kelley; 1st Bn, 2d Bn, 
3d Bn, 338th Inf, AAR's, and 338th Inf AAR, Sep 44. 
Although the regimental replacement pool was al- 
ways available during the battle of Monte Altuzzo, 
the commanders considered it unwise to send replace- 
ments forward over the exposed terrain or to try to 
integrate them into rifle companies during heavy 
front-line action. See Ltr, Col Cole to Hist Div, 
Nov 48, filed in OCMH. 



along the entire II Corps front. On 11 
September the long-range artillery had 
moved into position in the vicinity of 
Vaglia and the medium-range corps 
artillery and the 85th Division artillery 
to positions near the Sieve River. Maxi- 
mum fire was to be placed on known and 
suspected enemy fortifications in the 
attack zone; and general support bat- 
talions, in addition to maintaining de- 
structive fires on enemy defenses, were to 
place fire on roads and other routes of 
entry into the area behind Monte Altuzzo 
to harass movement of enemy supplies 
and reserves. No plans were made 
initially for a preparatory barrage. 25 

During the afternoon of 12 September 
both commanders of the 338th Infantry's 
attacking battalions reconnoitered the 
forward area. Colonel Jackson, 1st Bat- 
talion commander, and Capt. Thomas 
M. Quisenberry, his operations officer, 
went forward by jeep at 1730 to select a 
final assembly area, make a reconnais- 
sance, and secure information from the 
3d Battalion, 363d Infantry, whose Com- 
pany L was in the zone the 1st Battalion 
was to take over the next morning. Be- 
fore leaving his command, Colonel Jack- 
son told his executive officer to start his 
companies marching north at 1800 on 
the road to Scarperia; he would meet the 
battalion later and guide it to a final 
assembly area. 

Arriving at the command post of the 
3d Battalion, 363d Infantry, about 200 
yards north of the village of Ponzalla, 
Colonel Jackson found the situation per- 
plexing. The commander of the 3d 

25 85th Div Arty Opns Memo 18, 1 1 Sep 44, 85th 
Div G-3 Supporting File, Sep 44; FA Annex to 85th 
Div FO 2 1 , 1 Sep 44, in 85th Div Arty Rpt of Opns, 
Sep 44; Arty Jnls, II Corps Supporting File, Sep 44; 
Annex 4 to II Corps FO 23, 5 Sep 44, Fifth Army 
G-3 Jnl Files, Sep 44; Combat Interv with Farber. 



112 



THREE BATTLES 



Battalion, 363d, had not yet been in- 
formed that the 338th Infantry was to 
pass through his units, and he was 
planning his own attack to secure Monti- 
celli and Monte Altuzzo. Company L, 
363d, was scheduled to make a night 
attack against Altuzzo, and the battalion 
operations officer predicted that the cap- 
ture of Altuzzo that night would be easy 
and that Company L would hold the 
objective by dawn. 

After selecting his forward assembly 
area in the vicinity of Tre Camin Farm- 
house, about 400 yards east of Ponzalla, 
Colonel Jackson sent a message for his 
company commanders to come forward. 
When they arrived shortly after dark, he 
oriented them as best he could under the 
handicap of the meager information he 
obtained from the 3d Battalion, 363d, 
and the lack of opportunity to make a 
detailed ground reconnaissance. Dark- 
ness had closed down before he could 
survey the routes of approach to his 
objective, or even the objective itself, 
the crest of Monte Altuzzo. Until the 
next morning he would have to base his 
route of advance on map study and what 
he had seen of the hills from the CP of 
the 3d Battalion, 363d. Jackson still felt 
that he could find out from the 363d 
Infantry at least the route of approach 
to the objective. At all events there was 
the possibility that the 363d Infantry 
would have captured Monte Altuzzo 
before dawn. 

Jackson's plan of attack was to employ 
a column of companies, A, B, and C, 
with one heavy machine gun platoon of 
Company D attached to each of the two 
leading companies. He adopted this 
flexible plan because of incomplete in- 
formation on the amount of resistance 
that would be encountered and because 



of uncertainty as to the location of the 
troops through which his battalion was 
to pass. The six 81 -mm. mortars of 
Company D were to support the attack 
from positions on the slopes below 
Paretaio Farmhouse. 26 

Confidence in the 338th 

There seemed to be an air of confidence 
— almost overconfidence — in the con- 
versations of Colonel Jackson and his 1st 
Battalion company commanders. Based 
partly on the intelligence appreciation 
by the 338th Infantry that the German 
troops on Monte Altuzzo were inferior, 
the confidence also stemmed from the 
optimism of the 3d Battalion, 363d, which 
expected to take Monte Altuzzo without 
much of a struggle before the 338th 
should be committed. The overlays of 
enemy positions which the officers had 
seen showed only a few defenses on Monte 
Altuzzo, much less formidable than on 
Monticelli. The fact was that the Ger- 
man positions on bare Monticelli were 
more easily identified than those in the 
brush and woods of Monte Altuzzo. 
None of the overprints showed the heavy 
fortifications on the peak of Altuzzo's 
western ridge or the ring of positions 
around the Altuzzo bowl. The confi- 
dence of the 1st Battalion officers was 
strengthened by events at large — day 
after day, newspapers and radio had 
blared the news of victories on other 
fronts, the British had already cracked 
the Gothic Line below Rimini, and The 
Stars and Stripes had announced that the 
German Army in Italy was finished. 27 



26 Combat Intervs with Jackson and Quisenberry. 

27 S-2 Memo on the Giogo Pass Defenses, 338th 
Inf, 7 Sep 44, Annex to 338th Inf FO 3, 10 Sep 44; 
Memo, The Defense of the Giogo Pass, 12 Sep 44, 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



113 



During the night of 12-13 September, 
Colonel Jackson could not help worrying 
about the obscure situation of Company 
L, 363d Infantry, which was supposedly 
attacking up the Altuzzo ridge. Al- 
though he kept contact with the 3d Bat- 
talion, 363d, he was never able to secure 
accurate information about Company L 
and therefore did not know where his 
line of departure would be at 0600 the 
next morning. His battalion was faced 
with passing through a unit which had 
not been located and whose success 
against his own objective was not known. 28 

The men of the 1st Battalion, 338th, 
arrived just before midnight at their 
forward assembly area in the vicinity of 
Tre Camin Farmhouse. Loaded down 
with full packs and blanket rolls, they 
had marched on foot from Vaglia, twelve 
miles up and down hills. Despite their 
fatigue, they did not seem depressed 
about the impending attack. Few sus- 
pected that a hard fight lay ahead, and 
most shared the confidence of their 
officers. After digging in, the men 
dropped off to sleep. 29 

Colonel Cole, commander of the 2d 
Battalion, which was to assist the 1st 
Battalion's main effort against Monte 
Altuzzo by attacking up Highway 6524 
between Altuzzo and Monticelli, ex- 
perienced much the same difficulty as 



338th Inf S-2 Jnl Files, Sep 44; Defense Overlays 
showing enemy positions in the Giogo Pass area, 
5-12 Sep 44, in 338th Inf AAR, Sep 44; Combat 
Intervs with Jackson, Peabody, King, Souder, and 
surviving plat Idrs and EM, 1st Bn, 338th Inf; 1st 
Bn, 338th Inf, AAR, Sep 44; Regtl and 1st Bn, 2d 
Bn, and 3d Bn Aid Station Logs, 1-11 Sep 44; The 
Stars and Stripes (Med Edition), 6 Sep 44. 

28 Combat Intervs with Maj Vernon A. Ostendorf, 
and with Jackson and Quisenberry. 

J * Combat Intervs with the following: Jackson, 
Peabody, King, and Souder; plat Idrs of Co A, 338th 
Inf; enlisted survivors in Cos B and C, 338th Inf. 



Colonel Jackson. When Colonel Cole 
issued his attack order around midnight, 
designating two companies forward, one 
on either side of the highway, he still 
did not know his line of departure, for 
Company I, 363d Infantry, was still 
making a night attack toward Monti- 
celli. The 2d Battalion, 338th Infan- 
try, awaited its morning attack in a 
forward assembly area, one to two hun- 
dred yards north of Ponzalla. The 3d 
Battalion, 338th Infantry, moved up 
during the night to an assembly area 
about one mile south of Ponzalla and 
made plans to follow in reserve behind 
the 1st Battalion up the main Altuzzo 
ridge. 31 

Preparations of Company A, 338th 

As daylight approached on 1 3 Septem- 
ber, the men of Company A, 338th 
Infantry, who were to lead the 1st Battal- 
ion's movement against Monte Altuzzo, 
roused from their short sleep at 0430, ate 
K ration breakfasts, and prepared their 
equipment for the attack. Each man 
folded his shelter half and blanket into 
a TJ-roll. The new infantry packs were 
left on the hillside behind the Paretaio 
Farmhouse. Stripped down to the barest 
gear needed, the men shivered a little. 
The night air was cool, and the old field 
jackets, olive drab uniforms, and summer 
underwear in which they had sweltered 
the day before were no proof against the 
cold morning drafts that swept over the 
hills. 

The company commander, Capt. Rob- 
ert A. King, the 2d Platoon leader, 2d Lt. 



30 Combat Interv with Cole; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, 
AAR, Sep 44. 

31 Ibid.; 3d Bn, 338th Inf, AAR, Sep 44. 




RELAXED FOOT SOLDIER of 338th Infantry in forward assembly area. Members of 
the 338th Infantry, resting and waiting, were not depressed by the impending attack. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



115 



Harry R. Gresham, and the platoon 
runner, Pfc. Bernard C. Van Kleeck, met 
Colonel Jackson near the Paretaio Farm- 
house and went inside for map orienta- 
tion. Lieutenant Gresham's 2d Platoon 
was to spearhead Company A's attack. 
Pointing on his 1:25,000 map to a small 
trail that seemingly led north to the 
objective, Colonel Jackson designated it 
as the battalion's route of advance and 
gave Captain King and Lieutenant 
Gresham last-minute information. On 
the whereabouts of Company L, 363d 
Infantry, he could say only that elements 
of that company were somewhere on the 
mountain. 32 

Lieutenant Gresham's platoon ser- 
geant, T. Sgt. Adron G. Stevens, had in 
the meanwhile been leading the 2d Pla- 
toon toward the farmhouse. Lieutenant 
Gresham met them outside and assembled 
his squad leaders and platoon head- 
quarters for a conference. 

After establishing communication by 
SCR (Signal Corps Radio) 536 with 
Company A headquarters, the 2d Platoon 
leader, his squad leaders, and platoon 
headquarters, followed by the platoon 
itself, walked thirty-five yards beyond a 
rock wall above the Paretaio Farmhouse 
to a little road that ran northwest to a 
junction with Highway 6524. Light was 
beginning to break on the lower slopes 
of the Altuzzo ridge. Although the crest 
of Hill 926 was still not visible, the 
wooded slopes to the north along the 
highway could be seen for several 
hundred yards. 

Halting his platoon, Lieutenant Gresh- 



3? Combat Intervs with the following: Gresham; 
T Sgt Adron G, Stevens; S Sgt Walter J. Michalek, 
Jr., S Sgt Edmond H. Carter, S Sgt Ira W. Wilson, 
S Sgt Stanley G. HiUier, and S Sgt Kenneth C. 
Pickens; Jackson and King. 



am relayed to his squad leaders informa- 
tion about the enemy and the route of 
advance designated by Colonel Jackson. 
He assigned S. Sgt. Ira W. Wilson's 2d 
Squad as the scout squad of a squad 
column formation, to be followed at an 
interval of fifty yards by platoon head- 
quarters, the 1st Squad, and the 3d 
Squad, in that order. The lieutenant 
selected as the first bound for the scout 
squad a clump of trees some 600 yards 
north of Paretaio near the head of a little 
fork of Rocca Creek west of the open 
fields and olive orchards that lay along 
the west side of the main draw. 

At approximately 0600 the 2d Platoon 
moved out. Sergeant Wilson's scout 
squad had walked about fifty yards up 
the little road when Lieutenant Gresham 
discovered that it led to the left instead 
of to the right toward Monte Altuzzo, as 
his map reconnaissance with Colonel 
Jackson had indicated. Accordingly he 
ordered Wilson to strike cross country to 
the right in the direction of the selected 
bound. Leading his men across a scrub- 
by slope east of the little road, Wilson 
found and followed a trail which ran 
high on the eastern slope of Hill 577, 
below the highway, to the south and 
eastern slopes of H ill 606 near l'Uomo 
Morto. {Map 8) Possibly because the 
advance was shielded by heavily leafed 
trees and thick underbrush on either side 
of the path, Lieutenant Gresham ordered 
the platoon to decrease the distance be- 
tween men. The leading squad filed 
down the trail across a little hump in the 
slope and over a small branch of Rocca 
Creek to the first bound, the clump of 
trees on the nose of Hill 606. There 
Sergeant Wilson halted his men and ob- 
served the open wheat field and olive 
grove facing them. Bounding the field 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



117 



and olive grove was a V-shaped draw 
chiseled by the winding mountain stream. 

Wilson passed word down the column 
to Lieutenant Gresham that he had 
stopped. About one hour had passed 
since the jump-off, and still there had 
beeruio fire or sign of the enemy. When 
Lieutenant Gresham came forward, he 
noted that observation of the whole 
Altuzzo ridge was good and for the first 
time saw the highest peak of the moun- 
tain, Hill 926. He reported his position 
to Captain King: he was at a point some 
1,200 yards southwest of Monte Altuzzo's 
crest. 

Studying the terrain briefly with his 
platoon sergeant and leading squad 
leader, Lieutenant Gresham selected the 
main creek bed of the Rocca directly 
across the open field as the next bound 
for the scout squad. For the scout 
squad's protection, he moved the 1st 
Squad to covering positions in the clump 
of trees and directed the 3d Squad to 
close up in rear of the 1st. 

Because he feared mines in the fields 
and draws ahead, Lieutenant Gresham 
directed Wilson to move his squad across 
the open field in single file. The platoon 
leader then led Sergeant Stevens, Private 
Van Kleeck and Pvt. Donald R. Smith, 
platoon runners, and Pvt. Edmond H. 
Carter, an automatic rifleman, to the 
nose of Hill 606, and prepared to help 
cover the scout squad's movement. These 
were routine precautions. Gresham and 
his men still thought that Company L, 
363d Infantry, was on Monte Altuzzo 
and that the 2d Platoon would merely 
pass through Company L. 

Enemy Fire 

It was nearly 0800 when Sergeant 
Wilson moved his squad from the clump 



of trees into the open field. Sunlight 
striking the western slopes of the Altuzzo 
ridge had helped dispel the morning 
haze, and the mountain ahead was clearly 
visible. The squad had advanced about 
seventy-five yards across the field when 
a machine gun from an enemy outpost 
on the southwestern slope of Hill 782 
directly above la Rocca Farmhouse sud- 
denly opened fire. The first bullets 
struck the ground about twenty yards in 
front of the squad. There was little con- 
cealment in the field, and Lieutenant 
Gresham, back at the covering position 
on the nose of Hill 606, could see the 
squad plainly. As the men hit the 
ground, the lieutenant shouted to Ser- 
geant Wilson to move into the creek bed 
about fifty yards away; an instant later, 
as if the platoon leader did not know 
what was happening, Sgt. Edgar A. 
Parks, the assistant squad leader, called 
back, "There's somebody shooting at us, 
Lieutenant!" 33 For the moment the 
machine gun fire was so intense that the 
men could not reach the creek bed, 
though they were able to dash forward 
to a little drainage ditch, two feet deep, 
which ran through the field. 

Soon Private Carter, the automatic 
rifleman with platoon headquarters, lo- 
cated what he thought was the enemy 
machine gun position about 600 yards 
away on the southwest slope of Hill 782. 
Carter opened up with his Browning 
automatic rifle (BAR), and the enemy 
weapon soon ceased fire. Sergeant Wil- 
son's squad ran forward quickly to take 
cover in the main bed of Rocca Creek. 
The action had taken about one hour, 
and the 2d Platoon found it had four men 
wounded. 



33 Combat Interv with Gresham. 




MONTE ALTUZZO AREA on right flank of the Gtogo Pass. 



K .!•■•> • Montr Alliizzo (126) Knob 2 Knob] Hill 78.2 




La Rocca Farmhouse area, hidden by trees, is indicated by circle. 



120 



THREE BATTLES 




INFANTRY APPROACH OVER OPEN FIELD. This area, under direct observation 
from Monte Altuzzo, was where the first enemy fire hit Lieutenant Gresham's platoon. 



Lieutenant Gresham was convinced 
that the movement of more men across 
the open field would unnecessarily expose 
them. He therefore decided to send the 
rest of the platoon, now some 200 yards 
behind the advance squad, off at a sharp 
angle to Sergeant Wilson's route. The 
1st and 3d Squads would push southeast 
down the branch of Rocca Creek, which 
ran beside the southwest side of the open 
grainfield to the main creek bed some 
500 yards away. 34 

Before moving again, Lieutenant 

34 Ibid.; Combat Intervs with Stevens and with 
Michalek-Carter-Wilson-Hillier-Pickens. 



Gresham radioed company headquarters, 
and Captain King came forward. The 
company commander told the platoon 
leader to continue the advance and 
promised to have the 1st Platoon cover 
the advance from the edge of the open 
field until Gresham made contact again. 
Promising to call for artillery fire on the 
entire area from la Rocca to the top of 
Monte Altuzzo, Captain King radioed 
Colonel Jackson, who in turn asked for 
the support fire from regiment. 35 The 
request was passed through channels to 

35 Combat Intervs with Gresham, King, and 
Jackson. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



121 



the 363d Infantry, which refused to allow 
the fire because its Company L was still 
somewhere on Monte Altuzzo. 36 

Minus the 2d Squad, which had taken 
cover 300 yards to the northeast in the 
Rocca Creek bed, Company A's 2d 
Platoon moved out on its selected route 
down the dry branch bed leading south- 
east toward the main draw. The leading 
men had advanced only about 150 yards 
when 120-mm. mortar shells began to 
shower the banks and bed of the branch 
creek. Shouting for the men to take 
cover, Lieutenant Gresham hit the 
ground. Up and down the creek bed 
the men could see the shells kicking up 
the dirt a few yards away or hear them 
plopping in the hay fields above the 
banks. As the mortar fire continued, 
the 1st Squad leader, whose nervous con- 
dition had worried Gresham before, 
asked permission to return to the com- 
pany command post. Realizing the 
sergeant was unfit for duty, Gresham sent 
him back and ordered the assistant squad 
leader, Pfc. Ray C. Collins, to take 
command. 

During and after the mortar concen- 
tration, Lieutenant Gresham tried in 
vain to reach the company commander 
by SCR 536. The platoon leader then 
sent back his runner, Private Van Kleeck, 
to report the platoon's position and the 
route it expected to take as it continued. 

The main body of the 2d Platoon 
again moved down the creek bed. About 
200 yards farther, the lieutenant called 
a halt. He sent two men ahead to tell 
Sergeant Wilson — still with his 2d Squad 
on the other side of the field in the main 
Rocca Creek bed 300 yards to the north — 
to begin moving down the creek bed to 



M Ibid.; 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 12 Sep 44. 



meet them. There was a dugout in the 
side of the bank where the platoon leader 
had halted his men. Inside were about 
a dozen Italian civilians, and outside lay 
the still-warm bodies of a chicken, a dog, 
and a cow, killed by the mortar barrage. 
Assisted by Pfc. Joseph Farino as inter- 
preter, Lieutenant Gresham questioned 
the civilians. They knew that Germans 
occupied the territory into which the 
platoon was moving, but had seen no 
Americans either on the slopes of Monte 
Altuzzo or in the Rocca draw. 

Again Gresham tried to make contact 
by SCR 536 with Captain King; again 
he failed. Since Private Van Kleeck 
had not returned, the platoon leader sent 
another runner, Pvt. Richard E. Finkle, 
to the company command post, which 
presumably was still following down the 
slope north of Paretaio. About 1000 the 
platoon finally made SCR 536 contact 
with the Weapons Platoon leader, 2d Lt. 
Henry F. Robbins, who was at the 
company CP. Lieutenant Gresham re- 
viewed the progress of his platoon and 
said he planned to continue moving down 
the creek bed. 

The two men who had gone to make 
contact with Sergeant Wilson returned 
after a r^und trip of about forty-five 
minutes, and Lieutenant Gresham and 
the 1st and 3d squads moved out toward 
Sergeant Wilson's squad. The two 
groups joined forces around 1 1 00, and 
the entire platoon ate K ration dinners 
in the creek bed at the base of the big 
western finger of Hill 624. 

Advance to Hills 624 and 782 

With the 1st Squad in the lead, Lieu- 
tenant Gresham moved his platoon single 
file up the left branch of a Y-shaped draw 



122 



THREE BATTLES 



which mountain streams had carved 
through the western slope of Hill 624. 
The men walked up the creek bed, 
barely wetting their boots in a water- 
course that months of rainless days had 
cut to a trickle. Leaving the creek bed, 
they moved across the south side of the 
finger of Hill 624, rounded the nose, and 
pushed on toward a grove of gnarled 
chestnut trees on the slope about 250 
yards west of Hill 624. Going uphill for 
the first time since the jump-off, the men 
trudged slowly, their bedrolls, cartridge 
belts, bandoleers of ammunition, and 
M-l rifles seeming even heavier than 
before. The ground was rough and 
uneven, and the slope was steep. 

When the platoon reached the chestnut 
grove on the slope of Hill 624, enemy 
machine gunners and riflemen in the 
outpost positions on the southern slope 
of Hill 782 near the ridge line must have 
spotted the men's heads bobbing through 
the heavily foliaged but widely spaced 
trees. The Germans fired sporadically 
but caused no casualties. Instead of re- 
turning the fire, Lieutenant Gresham 
halted the column, and the men stretched 
on the ground to rest. 

A wild cry came suddenly from the 
higher slopes of Hill 624. Four men 
sent to investigate found a dazed soldier 
from Company L, 363d Infantry. He 
had lost his rifle, helmet, arid field jacket, 
and was in a semicoherent condition. 
He told Gresham that the night before 
his company had made an attack to the 
right of where the Company A platoon 
was now resting. His company, the 
soldier said, had run into strong enemy 
resistance and had been driven back with 
heavy casualties. He had become sepa- 
rated from the rest of the company and 
had no idea where it was. Sending the 



man to the rear with a guide, Gresham 
radioed the information to Captain 
King. 37 The company commander re- 
plied that he still thought the platoon 
would meet only light opposition and 
instructed the platoon leader to keep 
moving toward the top of the mountain. 38 
Before pushing forward again, Lieu- 
tenant Gresham roughly marked the next 
bound and route of advance. From the 
chestnut trees on the northwestern slope 
of Hill 624, he could see a large finger 
extending down from Hill 782. The 
platoon leader located on his 1:25,000 
map a clearly marked trail that wound 
from the top of Hill 624 northwest to 
and around the finger. He designated 
the finger as the next bound. Although 
foliage and scrubby undergrowth pre- 
vented locating the trail on the ground, 
Gresham decided to move the platoon 
in a northeasterly direction anyway, 
hoping this would bring his men to the 
trail. 

Shortly after noon Gresham's troops, 
in single file, the 1st Squad still leading, 
moved forward again. They met no 
resistance as they passed between stunted 
trees and bushes across the western slope 
of Hill 624. The leading men had gone 
about fifteen yards when they came upon 
the trail near the head of a creek that 
flowed down the slope. Following the 
trail, the 1st Squad moved along the 
southwestern slope of Hill 782 and, after 
rounding the first of its two fingers, came 
to the bend in the trail on the second, 
larger, finger which stretched down from 
Hill 782 to la Rocca Farmhouse. When 
the squad halted, Lieutenant Gresham 
joined Private Collins, the squad leader, 

37 Combat Intervs with Gresham, Stevens, and 
Michalek-Carter-Wilson-Hillier- Pickens. 

38 Combat Intervs with Gresham and King. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



123 



and called the other two squad leaders 
forward. From the bend Gresham could 
see a peak to the left on a ridge that 
seemed to extend east toward Hill 926, 
the crest of Monte Altuzzo, which still 
was not visible. Rather than push 
directly toward the objective, Gresham 
decided he would move his platoon to 
the western peak and then swing right 
toward the top of the mountain. His 
men could walk along the trail to the 
western ridge, then straight up the ridge 
to the peak. 39 

After this decision Gresham radioed his 
plan to his company commander. Cap- 
tain King, still confident that the enemy 
would not put up a stiff fight, approved 
Gresham' s plan and urged the platoon 
to move along quickly. 40 Earlier that 
morning, at 1007, Colonel Jackson had 
prematurely reported to regiment that 
Company A's leading platoon had reached 
the lower southwest slope of Hill 782. 41 

Again Lieutenant Gresham's platoon 
moved out, going around the bend and 
down the trail that ran to the base of the 
bowl, which was formed by the large 
finger of Hill 782, the western slope of 
the main ridge, and the western ridge. 
The men of the leading 1st Squad were 
dispersed along either side of the trail 
in a squad column formation, and behind 
them in single file came the 3d and 2d 
Squads. Between men there was an 
interval of ten yards, and the squads had 
visual contact. Thick undergrowth of 
bushes and small trees along the trail 
concealed the men from the enemy who, 
unknown to the advancing platoon, lay 
in wait behind the semicircular ring of 

39 Combat Intervs with Gresham, Stevens, and 
Michalek -Carter-Wilson -Hillier-Pickens. 

40 Combat Intervs with Gresham and King. 
<i 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 12 Sep 44. 



defensive positions across the upper half 
of the Altuzzo bowl. 

About 150 yards from the bend of the 
trail, the 1st Squad came to more open 
ground where the overhanging foliage 
thinned and the path became clearly 
exposed to enemy view from the west 
side of the bowl. About forty yards 
straight ahead the trail led downward to 
the base of the bowl, then curved toward 
the slope of the western ridge. At the 
bottom of the bowl, bare rocks jutted 
out from the uneven surface. Across 
this space sprawled the trunks of thick 
trees which the enemy had felled to pro- 
vide fields of fire. The slope beyond the 
clearing became steeper, and tiny moun- 
tain streams had cut small, narrow draws 
in it and had left many arms of land 
which gave the galleria, as the Italians 
called it, a rough, uneven appearance 
when the sun was playing on it. Beyond 
the right top center of the bowl towered 
Hill 926, Altuzzo's crest. 

Reaching this open part of the trail, Pri- 
vate Collins halted his squad and waited 
for instructions. Lieutenant Gresham 
came forward quickly and directed Col- 
lins to lead his men up the eastern slope 
of the western ridge toward the rocky 
peak 500 yards west of Hill 926. To 
cover the 1st Squad, he directed the 3d, 
under S. Sgt. Stanley G. Hillier, to 
disperse at the edge of the brush. The 
2d Squad took cover off the trail to the 
rear. 

Fire Fight in the Bowl 

While the rest of the 2d Platoon was 
going into position, Collins led the 1st 
Squad from the edge of the brush into 
the open space. The men went about 
a hundred yards before the enemy opened 



124 



THREE BATTLES 



fire with machine guns and rifles from 
three directions: the left flank, front, and 
right flank — from positions on the top 
and halfway up the rocky western peak, 
from the upper west slope of the bowl, 
and from the main Altuzzo ridge line 
north of Hill 782. 

At the first sound of fire, the 1st Squad 
hit the ground and scrambled for cover. 
Some men crawled behind a big chestnut 
tree which the enemy had left standing; 
others pulled themselves behind rocks 
and logs. There were no holes to hide 
in and the uneven ground provided little 
concealment. In a short time the men 
were aware that the enemy looked 
directly down upon them from behind 
rocks and prepared positions along the 
higher slopes and the top of the bowl. 
One man, lying beside the big chestnut 
tree on the left front of the clearing, was 
wounded. 

Soon after the 1st Squad was fired 
upon, the rest of the platoon at the edge 
of the brush also received fire. Lieu- 
tenant Gresham ordered the men around 
him to take whatever cover they could 
find and return the fire. In the 3d 
Squad Pvt. Diego Martines, attempting 
to move across the trail, was hit in the 
chest by small arms fire and instantly 
killed. Private Van Kleeck, who had 
rejoined the platoon, began to carry the 
SCR 536 to Lieutenant Gresham at the 
edge of the brush. Two bullets struck 
him in the leg, forcing him to the ground. 
As the heavy small arms fire continued 
to saturate the area, Gresham ordered 
the 3d Squad to move back around the 
bend in the trail on the large finger of 
Hill 782. Most of the 3d Squad and 
platoon headquarters pulled back. Pri- 
vate Finkle, who had also been slightly 
wounded, stayed with Private Van Kleeck 



in what seemed to be a relatively safe 
position. 

Although the men of the 1st Squad in 
the open space were at first pinned down, 
Private Collins managed to direct them 
individually back to the head of the 
wooded draw through which a branch 
ran down beside a grainfield to la Rocca 
Farmhouse. Lieutenant Gresham then 
shouted to Collins to move back down 
the creek bed and rejoin the platoon 
behind the crest of the large finger that 
ran from Hill 782 to la Rocca. While 
the 1st and 3d Squads withdrew to this 
position, the 2d Squad, which had taken 
no part in the action, remained dispersed 
in covering positions on either side of 
the bend in the trail. 42 

At 1315 the 338th Infantry command 
post learned from the 1st Battalion that 
Company A was in a fire fight but was 
moving slowly forward. From his ob- 
servation post in front of Paretaio Farm- 
house, Colonel Jackson, 1st Battalion 
commander, could see the battle, and 
fifteen minutes later correctly reported 
that his forward elements were at the 
base of the bowl just beyond the large 
finger of Hill 782 some 500 yards south- 
west of Hill 926." 

About 1345, after he had moved his 
platoon behind the bend in the trail, 
Lieutenant Gresham reported to Captain 
King by SCR 536, relating the story of 
the fire fight at the base of the bowl and 
stating that it would be impossible with- 
out artillery support to move farther in 
the direction of Monte Altuzzo's crest. 
Captain King, promising to relay the 
artillery request and to send two litter 

42 Combat Intervs with Gresham, Stevens, and 
Michalek-Carter-Wilson-Hillier-Pickens. 

« 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 12 Sep 44; Combat Interv 
with Jackson. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



125 



squads to care for casualties, ordered 
Lieutenant Gresham to hold where he 
was, just above the trail behind the crest 
of the large finger of Hill 782. 44 

Supporting Fires 

The request for artillery support was 
quickly passed back to the regimental 
commander, who again asked the 91st 
Infantry Division for clearance. At 1 350 
the 363d Infantry gave permission, stating 
that its Company L had recently with- 
drawn from Monte Altuzzo. 45 In addi- 
tion to this artillery fire, both Colonel 
Cole (2d Battalion, 338th) and Colonel 
Jackson requested that three medium 
artillery battalions and the direct-support 
329th Field Artillery Battalion place 
TOT (time on target) fire on the area 
north of the Giogo Pass. The mission 
was fired with undetermined results. 
{Map 9) Through the remainder of the 
day, the 329th fired on enemy machine 
guns and mortars in the Altuzzo area 
and laid down harassing fire. 

Other close artillery support during 
the day was designed to fulfill the mis- 
sions of neutralizing and destroying 
enemy defenses and isolating the battle- 
field from enemy reinforcement and 
supply. The 403d Field Artillery Bat- 
talion (155-mm. howitzers) placed harass- 
ing fires on the highway through the 
Giogo Pass and a small road running 
from the north slopes of Monte Altuzzo 
to the highway. The 178th Field Artil- 
lery Group fired missions against German 
infantry in the Altuzzo vicinity, mortars, 
and a radio tower near the Giogo Pass 
and neutralized guns 1,000 yards south 



of Firenzuola. Since the enemy held the 
dominant ground observation, both 85th 
Division and II Corps artillery depended 
primarily on air observation posts, which 
were in position to observe only a small 
percentage of the missions fired. 

By midafternoon additional fire sup- 
port was being provided by Company B, 
752d Tank Battalion (Medium). At 
1530 the 1st Platoon, Company B, 
moved into firing positions about a 
thousand yards northeast of Scarperia 
and reportedly knocked out one pillbox 
on Monte Altuzzo with direct fire. The 
3d Platoon, Company B, moved into 
direct firing positions east of Montagnana, 
about two thousand yards northeast of 
Scarperia, and fired on pillboxes, claim- 
ing two direct hits. 

Besides the tanks, the 338th Infantry 
requested the 85th Division to attach one 
platoon of tank destroyers to the tank 
company, a request later fulfilled. Com- 
pany B, 84th Chemical Battalion (4.2- 
inch Mortar), which had also been 
attached to the 338th Infantry, remained 
in an assembly area nearly seven miles 
to the rear and fired no missions on 13 
September. Company B, 310th En- 
gineer Combat Battalion, maintained 
supply routes in support of the infantry 
regiment. 46 

Assistance was also received from 
tactical air support. Having received 
word early in the morning from division 
that fighter bombers could be secured on 
short notice, Colonel Mikkelsen, 338th 
commander, had requested planes to 



44 Combat Intervs with Gresham and King. 

45 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 13 Sep 44; 91st Div G-3 Jnl, 
13 Sep 44; Combat Intervs with Jackson and Farber. 



46 338th Inf, 339th Inf, and 2d Bn, 338th Inf, Unit 
Jills, 13 Sep 44; II Corps Arty Jnl, 13 Sep 44; 403d 
FA Bn and 178th FA Gp Unit Jnls and Mission Rpts, 
13 Sep 44; 329th FA Bn Unit Jnl and AAR, Sep 44; 
752d Tk Bn AAR, Sep 44; 84th Cml Bn Unit Jnl, 
13 Sep 44, and AAR, Sep 44; 310th Engr (C) Bn 
Unit Jnl, 13 Sep 44. 




HOWITZER AND TANKS MOVING FORWARD. I ItO-mm. hotvttzn being 
towed into position {above) and a medium tank (below) fording Sieve River under cover of 
moke screen , 





MAP 9 



128 



THREE BATTLES 



operate north of Monte Altuzzo. Dur- 
ing the day missions against enemy artil- 
lery, vehicles, supply and ammunition 
depots, and troop concentrations were 
flown by the 239th and 244th RAF 
(Royal Air Force) and the 7th SAAF 
(South African Air Force) Wings of the 
Desert Air Force. The 7th SAAF Wing 
reported good results from six missions 
against enemy strong points and also 
bombed and strafed buildings one and 
one-half miles north-northeast of Monte 
Altuzzo. When gun areas two to three 
miles northeast of the Giogo Pass were 
bombed and strafed, two direct bomb 
hits caused a large explosion. The 7th 
SAAF Wing also destroyed one troop 
carrier and two motor transports. The 
239th Wing attacked a motor transport 
park 1,500 yards southwest of Firenzuola 
and guns three miles north of the pass. 
Shortly after noon fighter bombers bombed 
and strafed enemy troops near Bagnola 
at a point a mile north of the Giogo Pass, 
and a short while later tactical aircraft 
bombed and strafed three gun batteries 
at Corniolo, three miles northwest of the 
pass. Other missions were flown against 
a house at Collinaccia, 4,500 yards north- 
east of the pass, and against a self- 
propelled gun on the Firenzuola highway 
3,200 yards north of the pass. 47 

Company A at Hill 782 

While Lieutenant Gresham's platoon 
had been advancing to the lower slopes 
of Hill 782, the 1st Platoon, Company A, 
338th Infantry, had followed within con- 
necting distance. It reached the lower 



47 85th Div G-3 Jnl, 13 Sep 44; 338th Inf Unit 
Jnl, 13 Sep 44; MAAF Central Med Daily Opera- 
tional Sum, 13 Sep 44; 57th Fighter Group Opera- 
tional and Intel Sum, 13 Sep 44. 



slopes of Hill 782 without incident, 
arriving at a point where the trail crossed 
the crest of the large second finger of 
the hill. [See Map 8.) There, about 
1600, the platoon leader, 1st Lt. John R. 
MacMinn, Jr., and his platoon sergeant, 
T. Sgt. Nelson B. Van Home, halted the 
platoon and went forward themselves to 
establish physical contact with the 2d 
Platoon. About an hour later, Lieu- 
tenant MacMinn received orders from 
Captain King to pass on the right of the 
2d Platoon and advance as far as possible 
up Hill 782 toward the crest of Monte 
Altuzzo. If fire was received from the 
western ridge, the 2d Platoon was to 
support the 1st by fire. 

About 1730 the 1st Platoon moved out 
in a column of squads — 2d, 3d, 1st — up 
the draw between two fingers of the 
western slope of Hill 782. Spaced about 
ten yards apart in single file, the men 
climbed the steep slope, sometimes in a 
half-crouch, sometimes crawling, and 
nearly always having to clutch bushes 
and branches of small trees for support. 
Passing the 2d Platoon where it had 
halted on the slope of the large finger 
about 450 yards from Hill 782's crest, 
the men continued toward the head of 
the little draw. When they reached the 
barbed wire entanglement which stretch- 
ed all the way across the west slope, they 
moved through without difficulty, en- 
countering three strands of ankle-high 
wire about seven yards wide. Although 
stakes for three other strands stuck out 
waist-high above the ground, the wire 
had not been strung. 

As the leading men passed through 
the wire, they spotted a camouflaged 
machine gun bunker thirty-five to forty 
yards away at the head of the little draw. 
Halting the platoon, Sergeant Van Home 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



129 



crawled forward to the right of the 
position. He could see that it was a 
bunker constructed of heavy logs and 
covered with layers of logs and dirt 
and a wooden platform that had a man- 
hole for an entrance. Branches had been 
thrown across the top of the platform. 
Crawling closer, Sergeant Van Home 
saw two Germans, one in the manhole 
and one inside the bunker, visible through 
the embrasure. Evidently alerted, the 
German in the manhole entrance was 
holding a rifle and scanning the little 
draw where the 1st Platoon had halted 
just above the barbed wire. In order to 
fire effectively Sergeant Van Home had 
to crawl within three yards of the position. 
When he tried to push the safety off his 
rifle, for an agonizingly long moment it 
would not budge. At what seemed like 
the last split second before discovery, for 
the German could almost reach out and 
touch him, the sergeant shoved off the 
safety catch and pulled the trigger. The 
German dropped from sight into the 
bunker. 

Unable to bring fire on the other 
German inside the position, Sergeant 
Van Home shouted to the 2d Squad 
leader, S. Sgt. David C. South, to bring 
up a hand grenade. Van Home directed 
the two scouts into position to protect 
him to the front and the rest of the 2d 
Squad to form a ring around the bunker. 
Pfc. Jerome J. Straus called out in 
German for the enemy to surrender or 
be blown up with grenades. There was 
no answer. Noting that a trench led 
up the hill from the bunker, providing 
a second entrance into the position, 
Sergeant South pulled the pin from a 
grenade and tossed it through the trench 
entrance. Only the sound of the ex- 
ploding grenade came from the position. 



Sergeant Van Home and the leading 
men of the 2d Squad then moved about 
ten yards past the bunker toward the 
ridge line along a rock ledge that stretched 
across the brow of the finger leading to 
the crest of Hill 782. It was still day- 
light, and as the men moved their route 
of advance became more bare. Weigh- 
ing these factors and the fact that the 
rest of Company A was a hundred yards 
down the hill, Lieutenant MacMinn 
ordered Sergeant Van Home to with- 
draw and pulled his platoon back below 
the barbed wire to a point where a little 
rise provided some concealment. 48 

When his men had returned to this 
position, Lieutenant MacMinn retraced 
his steps to the 2d Platoon and talked 
with Lieutenant Gresham and the leader 
of the 3d Platoon, 1st Lt. Charles T. 
Holladay, who had by this time also 
come forward. The three lieutenants 
decided that, instead of moving out into 
the confusion of approaching darkness 
without further orders from Captain 
King, they would set up defensive posi- 
tions where they were. They established 
their three rifle platoons from the brow 
of the large finger of Hill 782 across the 
little draw to the next finger to the right, 
above the trail on the southwest slope of 
Hill 782. The 2d Platoon was on the 
left on the large finger, the 1st in the 
center in the draw, and the 3d on the 
right on the other finger. 49 

Several hours after darkness, about 
2230, Captain King and the Weapons 
Platoon under Lieutenant Robbins moved 
the Company A command post from the 
slope west of Rocca Creek to the large 

48 Combat Intervs with the following: MacMinn; 
Van Home; South and S Sgt Harry B. Whary; King. 

49 Combat Intervs with MacMinn, Van Home, 
Gresham, and King. 



130 



THREE BATTLES 



finger. During the advance of the rifle 
platoons, the light machine guns and 
60-mm. mortars of Company A had 
remained as a covering force on the 
southern slope of Hill 606 near where 
the 2d Platoon had first received its fire 
that morning. When Captain King 
reached his rifle platoons, he expressed 
disappointment that they had not ad- 
vanced farther. 

Confused Reports from the 363d 

Throughout the morning and even 
into the afternoon of 1 3 September, poor 
communication between the leading pla- 
toons and the Company A command 
post, plus confused reports regarding 
Company L, 363d Infantry, had made it 
difficult for Colonel Jackson and Colonel 
Mikkelsen to keep abreast of events or to 
issue intelligent orders for the attack. 
At 0900 the 363d Infantry reported that 
its forward elements (Company L) were 
on Hill 926, the crest of Monte Altuzzo, 
and estimated that the elements of the 
85th Division would not come abreast 
before 1400. Although Colonel Jackson 
learned in midmorning that Company 
L, 363d, was digging in on Hill 782, to 
the 338 th Infantry it was reported at 
1055 that Company L was on the top of 
Monte Altuzzo. Again at 11 35 the 363d 
Infantry reported to its division head- 
quarters that it had captured Monte 
Altuzzo and was then clearing out 
remaining snipers. 

As time went on, the story gradually 
came back that, far from being a push- 
over, the enemy had put up stiff resist- 
ance and had driven Company L, 363d, 
back from the crest of Monte Altuzzo. 
About 1400 the 338th Infantry informed 
Colonel Jackson that Company L, 363d, 



had withdrawn from Monte Altuzzo. 
At 1440 a soldier from the company re- 
ported to the 338th Infantry that his 
platoon had advanced to within 150 
yards of the peak of Monte Altuzzo the 
night before, had knocked out three 
bunkers, and had captured six prisoners, 
all paratroopers. 50 

These conflicting reports left Colonel 
Jackson confused about both the enemy 
situation and Company L's true location. 
Though his liaison officers tried all day 
to find out Company L's true position, 
such information was not available at 
the 3d Battalion, 363d. 51 What had 
actually happened was that, in an attack 
about dawn, Company L had advanced 
only to the barbed wire on the southwest 
slope of Hill 782. Shortly after midday 
it had withdrawn some 500 yards down 
the nain Altuzzo ridge. Until the pic- 
ture cleared as to what had happened to 
Company L and what the enemy's in- 
tentions were regarding Altuzzo's defense, 
the 338th Infantry's plans continued to 
be fluid and were based on the belief that 
the Germans would not resist strongly. 

Colonel Jackson held the remainder 
of his battalion throughout the day be- 
hind the Paretaio Farmhouse. Before 
Company A jumped off, he had planned 
for Company B to follow at a 500-yard 
interval. By the time Company A had 
cleared the line of departure, the morning 
haze had lifted and Jackson felt move- 
ment of Company B before darkness 
would invite needless risks. 

Throughout 13 September the 1st 
Battalion, 338th, had thus cautiously 

50 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 13 Sep 44; 85th Div and 91st 
Div G-3 Jnls, 12-13 Sep 44; Combat Intervs with 
Jackson, Mikkelsen, Quisenberry, Peabody, King, 
Souder, and Draney. 

*l Combat Intervs with Jackson and Quisenberry; 
1st Bn, 338th Inf, AAR, Sep 44. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



131 



committed only one company to the ad- 
vance against Monte Altuzzo. The 
attack had been a developing movement 
to reach the Altuzzo ridge without heavy 
casualties, pass through Company L, 
363d Infantry, and locate the enemy 
positions. By the end of the day the 
battalion had sustained about twenty 
casualties. 52 

While the 1st Battalion had been 
making the 338th Infantry's main effort 
against Monte Altuzzo, the 2d Battalion 
advanced along Highway 6524 about 
1,200 yards to l'Uomo Morto, almost 
on a line with the 1st Battalion's farthest 
advance. The 2d Battalion's two assault 
companies were stopped by heavy mortar 
and artillery fire and some small arms 
fire. They were hampered by being 
unable to get clearance for supporting 
artillery fire because elements of the 363d 
Infantry (Company I) were in the area 
and their exact location was unknown. 
At the end of 13 September the battalion 
was still 1,100 yards short of its objective, 
Point 770. 53 

On either flank of the 338th Infantry 
adjacent units made , some progress but 
in all cases failed to take their objectives. 
On the left the 363d Infantry attack up 
the slopes of Monticelli had bogged down 
about 1,500 yards short of the crest. On 
the right flank the 339th Infantry (85th 
Division) had had no more success 
against Monte Verruca. 54 

52 Combat Intervs with Jackson, Quisenberry, and 
Draney (who interviewed the other offs and NCO's 
of his company after his return from hospitalization); 
91st Div G-3 Jnl, 13 Sep 44; Msg, Actg CO, Co L, 
363d Inf, in 9I0th FA Bn Unit Jnl, 13 Sep 44; 1st 
Bn, 338th Inf, AAR, Sep 44. 

53 Combat Interv with Cole; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, 
AAR, Sep 44; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, Unit Jnl, 13 Sep 44; 
338th Inf Unit Jnl, 13 Sep 44. 

54 91st Div G-3 Jnl, 12-13 Sep 44; Strootman MS; 
Muller Notes; 339th Inf Unit Jnl, 12-13 Sep 44. 



All along the II Corps front on 13 
September the enemy had shown that he 
was not withdrawing from the Gothic 
Line without a struggle. In the area of 
the Giogo Pass there were already signs 
that the fighting would be hard and 
costly. On 12 September the 363d 
Infantry (91st Division) had sent two 
battalions against Monticelli and Monte 
Altuzzo, and twenty-four hours later six 
battalions from both the 91st and 85th 
Divisions had been committed against 
the same features. 55 While the attacks 
of 13 September had served to locate 
some of the enemy positions, many others 
still remained to be identified, and the 
task of reducing them had barely begun. 

The Enemy Situation 

During the afternoon of 13 September 
the 338th Infantry learned through 
prisoners of war that a company of 
eighty men held a front of about two 
thousand yards from Monte Altuzzo to 
Monte Verruca. Although this force 
would not have been sufficient to man 
all the prepared positions in the area, it 
was large enough to occupy a number of 
strong points in the main line of resist- 
ance. In view of the small number of 
troops in position when the American 
attack was launched, the Germans were 
evidently waiting to see where the heaviest 
blow would fall. 

During the night of 13-14 September, 
replacements arrived for the companies 
on Monte Altuzzo and On the other 
mountains in the Giogo Pass sector. At 
least one group of two officers and thirty 
men arrived at the companies of the 12th 
Parachute Regiment. Shortly after dark on 



55 85th Div and 91st Div G-3 Jnls, 13 Sep 44. 



132 



THREE BATTLES 



13 September, air reconnaissance identi- 
fied fifty enemy motor transports moving 
south from Firenzuola, ostensibly loaded 
with paratroopers whom Partisans had 
reported as having been sent to Firen- 
zuola a week earlier. 

Although some radio intercepts and 
prisoner of war reports had indicated an 
enemy withdrawal, the II Corps G-2 
discounted such movement as being of a 
local nature only. Intelligence was re- 
ceived that all three battalions of the 
12th Parachute Regiment were withdrawing, 
but the reported withdrawals were in- 
terpreted to be from outpost positions to 
the main line of resistance. On Monte 
Altuzzo the enemy's defenses were still 
intact except for the outpost positions 
which elements of the 363d and 338th 
Infantry had knocked out during the 
day. Even these positions were re- 
manned during the night. 56 



The Fourteenth Army was still not aware 
that the Fifth Army's main effort was 
being made up Highway 6524 toward 
the Giogo Pass. Expecting the principal 
attack at Futa Pass, the Germans planned 
to send one battalion of the Grenadier 
Lehr Brigade on the night of 14-15 Sep- 
tember to the area south of Loiano as 
/ Parachute Corps reserve. A second bat- 
talion was alerted for shipment the fol- 
lowing night. Impressed by the needs 
of his Tenth Army on the Adriatic front, 
Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring, 
commander of Army Group C, ordered the 
16th SS Panzer Grenadier Division to prepare 
for a speedy withdrawal from the western 
coastal sector of Fourteenth Army into army 
group reserve. 57 

M 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 1 3 Sep 44; 85th Div G-2 Jnl 
and G -2 Rpts, 13-14 Sep 44; IPW Rpts and Intel 
Sum, 14 Sep 44. 

" Fourteenth Army KTB 4, 13-14 Sep 44. 



CHAPTER II 



Peabody Peak 

(14 September) 



After failing for two days to breach the 
Giogo Pass defenses, II Corps prepared 
to continue the attack on 14 September, 
using the forward positions as the line of 
departure. On the left of Highway 6524 
the 91st Division, employing elements of 
two regiments, was to try again to capture 
Monticelli and Hill 844, which guarded 
Monticelli's western flank. On the right 
of the highway the 85th Division, with 
two regiments abreast, was to renew the 
attack at 0530. While the 338th Infan- 
try was again to make the main effort 
against Monte Altuzzo, the 339th Infan- 
try was to continue its attack up the 
eastern and western arms of Monte 
Verruca. The 337th Infantry was to 
remain in division reserve. 1 

In the 338th Infantry's zone the 2d 
Battalion was to drive along the highway 
to take Point 770, while the 1st Battalion 
was to strike again up the main ridge of 
Monte Altuzzo to capture the crest of 
the mountain. {Map 10) The 3d Bat- 
talion, in regimental reserve, was to 
move at 0500 from its assembly area near 
Scarperia to the rear of the 1st Battalion. 
It was to follow the 1st up Monte Altuzzo 
on order, prepared to push north- 
northeast to the hills about two miles 
beyond the Giogo Pass. Supplies of K 



'85th Div and 91st Div G-3 Jnls, 13-14 Sep 44; 
337th, 338th, and 339th Inf Unit Jnls, 13-14 Sep 44. 



rations and small arms ammunition had 
been brought to Ponzalla by jeep from 
the regimental supply point in Scarperia 
and hand-carried the rest of the way to 
the rifle battalions. 



MAP 10 

By midafternoon of 1 3 September Colo- 
nel Jackson had worked out a new plan 
for the 1st Battalion's attack against 
Monte Altuzzo. Still regarding the ef- 
fort as a developing movement, he 




134 



THREE BATTLES 




81-MM. MORTARS IN POSITION. Infantrymen of the 338th cleaning their mortars 
outside of Paretaio Farmhouse. Note trenches in background. 



thought the cost in troops would be light. 
Company B, with one platoon of Com- 
pany D's heavy machine guns attached, 
was to leave the forward assembly area 
at Paretaio Farmhouse at dark, cross la 
Rocca draw, and come up abreast of 
Company A on Hill 782. Together the 
two companies were to attack at dawn 
up the main Altuzzo ridge to the crest, 
Hill 926, Company A on the west slope 
and Company B on the east. After 
capturing Hill 926, Company A was to 
continue to the knob on the north (Knob 
3) while Company B was to send a pla- 



toon to Hill 862 to block any counter- 
attack from Pian di Giogo on the bat- 
talion's right front. The six 81 -mm. 
mortars in position behind Paretaio 
Farmhouse were to fire on call at suitable 
targets. 

While no preparatory artillery concen- 
tration was scheduled, artillery support 
was to be available on call after H Hour 
minus 10 minutes. The 338th Infantry's 
Cannon Company was to place harassing 
fire in the area 1,000 to 1,800 yards 
behind the switchbacks on the highway. 
At 0700 two platoons from the 84th 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



135 



Chemical Battalion, which had moved 
its 4.2-inch mortars to positions a few 
hundred yards south of Ponzalla, were to 
start firing on selected targets in the 
Altuzzo area. For air support Colonel 
Mikkelsen, 338th commander, requested 
missions against German artillery posi- 
tions and strong points 4,000 yards north 
and northeast of the pass and on the 
roads north of the pass from Barco to 
Firenzuola. 2 

During the night prior to the next 
attempt to take Monte Altuzzo, both 
corps and division artillery were busy 
firing harassing and TOT (time on 
target) concentrations on areas around 
Giogo Pass, most missions apparently 
designed to hamper enemy reinforce- 
ment and supply. Every hour the 403d 
Field Artillery Battalion placed harassing 
fire on areas around Barco Village. 
Besides firing three harassing missions on 
the north side of the Firenzuola road on 
either side of the pass, the 403d fired 180 
rounds on Hill 1029 northwest of the pass 
and placed a TOT mission just beyond 
it. Three battalions of corps medium 
artillery put 485 rounds of harassing and 
TOT fire in front of the 338 th Infantry. 
The targets were Hill 926, the north 
slopes of Monte Altuzzo, the slopes north 
of the pass, road junctions on the main 
Firenzuola road at Barco and a thousand 
yards north of the pass, and other sensi- 
tive points in the enemy's lines of com- 
munication. Although none of the mis- 
sions were observed, the volume of fire 



1 Combat Intervs with Cole, Jackson, Peabody, 
and King; 338th Inf and 2d Bn and 3d Bn, 338th Inf, 
Unit Jnls, 13-14 Sep 44; 338th Inf and 2d Bn and 
3d Bn, 338th Inf, AAR's, Sep 44; 85th Div G-3 Jnl, 
]4 Sep 44. Two direct bomb hits and two near 
misses were Subsequently scored by planes on enemy 
positions north of the pass. 



would seem to indicate that they ma- 
terially hampered enemy movement. 3 

Communication Failure 

The failure of Company A's SCR 300 
about 2230 the night of 13 September 
cut off Captain King's only means of 
direct communication with the 1st Bat- 
talion, 338th Infantry. After a hurried 
examination showed the batteries were 
not functioning, King sent three runners 
to the battalion command post to secure 
replacement batteries. On the way the 
runners came under artillery fire in the 
Rocca draw, delaying their arrival at the 
battalion CP until 0200. Although they 
secured new batteries and started back 
toward the Company A command post, 
only one of the men arrived and then not 
until well after daylight the next morning. 
Even with the new batteries the radio 
would not function. Further examina- 
tion showed that the trouble lay with the 
receiver* Another runner was sent back 
for new parts, but it was afternoon before 
they were received. Not until 1430, 14 
September, was the radio put back into 
operation and communication restored 
with battalion. The platoon SCR 536's, 
which worked spasmodically, would not 
transmit over such a distance in the 
mountains, and telephone wire, strung 
during the morning of 14 September, was 
knocked out by enemy mortar or artillery 
fire almost as soon as it was put in. 4 

Captain King, despite his communica- 
tions failure on the night of 1 3 September, 
went ahead with plans for the attack the 

3 II Corps Arty Jnl, 13-14 Sep 44; 403d FA Bn 
Jnl and Mission Rpts, 13-14 Sep 44; 178th FA Gp 
and 423d FA Gp Rpts and Jnls, 13-14 Sep 44. 

4 Combat Intervs with King, Jackson, and Gresh- 
am; 1st Bn, 338th Inf, AAR, Sep 44. 



136 



THREE BATTLES 



next morning. At a conference of his 
platoon leaders at the company command 
post, he outlined the formation to be 
used. The 1st Platoon on the left and 
the 3d Platoon on the right were to push 
up the large finger and the draw to the 
top of Hill 782, then swing left and 
advance just below the ridge line on the 
western slope of the main Altuzzo ridge 
to Hill 926. While these platoons were 
advancing, the 2d Platoon, following the 
1st, was to advance to a place from which 
it could support the attack by fire. One 
hour after the jump-off the Weapons 
Platoon was to pass through the 2d 
Platoon and follow the 1st to give sup- 
port in event of counterattack. Captain 
King expected that as soon as Company 
B, which had left Paretaio before Com- 
pany A's radio went dead, reached the 
slope of Hill 782 the Company B com- 
mander would make contact with him. 

While Captain King briefed his pla- 
toon leaders and tried to restore radio 
contact with the battalion commander, 
back in the foxholes the men of the 
company snatched a few hours of fitful 
sleep or stood watch through the dark 
night. In each foxhole the two or three 
men took turns at guard duty, and at all 
times at least three men from each squad 
were on the alert. Notwithstanding the 
fact that they had not occupied the crest 
of Monte Altuzzo or run into the com- 
pany of the 91st Division through which 
they had been scheduled to pass, the men 
and officers of Company A were still in 
high spirits. They still expected the 
attack the next morning to be an easy 



one. 



As the hours passed, the confidence of 
Captain King and his platoon leaders 
was tempered by anxiety over the where- 
abouts of Company B and their own 



failure to restore contact with battalion. 
Nothing had been heard from the run- 
ners who had started back to the battalion 
CP for new radio batteries. Because he 
expected the return of the runners at any 
moment, Captain King did not even 
consider stringing wire between the rear 
Company A command post on the nose 
of Hill 606, where the executive officer, 
1st Lt. Joseph E. Pizzi, was located, and 
the forward CP on the lower slopes of 
Hill 782, where the rest of the company 
was in position. Besides, if wire were 
laid, when his men pushed up the crest 
of Monte Altuzzo the next morning they 
would soon outstrip the company's supply 
of telephone wire. 

Company A Attacks the Outpost Line 

Left to his own counsels by the break 
in communications, Captain King finally 
decided during the early morning hours 
of 14 September that even if Company B 
did not make contact with him Company 
A would move up alone just before dawn 
and occupy the next peak, Hill 782. 
Further advances would then await the 
arrival of Company B or the re-establish- 
ment of communications with Colonel 
Jackson. In line with this decision, 
Company A, with two platoons abreast, 
the 3d on the left and the 1st on the 
right, moved out at 0500 up the south- 
west slope of Hill 782 between the first 
and second fin gers that r an down from 



the ridge line. \(Map 11) \ Both platoons 



moved in close column of squads forma- 
tion; the morning was too dark and 
initially the ground too bushy for 
dispersion. 5 

5 Combat Intcrvs with the following: King, 
MacMinn, and Gresham; S Sgt Joseph K. Colosimo, 
S Sgt Gordon K. Grigsby, Sgt Hubert G. Albert, 
T Sgt Darius L, Daughtry, Van Home, 
Whary. 



South, and 



1ST BATTALION ATTACK, U September 1944. 



138 



THREE BATTLES 



With the 3d Squad in the lead, fol- 
lowed by the 2d and 1st, the 3d Platoon 
walked slowly up the slope of Hill 782, 
so steep that, to keep their balance, the 
men frequently had to crouch close to 
the ground and grasp underbrush for 
support. As soon as the leading squad 
reached the barbed wire entanglement, 
the men stepped over it, only to run 
almost head on into a German bunker. 
At the head of the column, the two scouts 
and Pfc. Hubert G. Albert, acting 3d 
Squad leader, could see only the bare 
outline of the German position through 
the darkness. The squad leader halted 
his squad and signaled to the platoon 
leader, Lieutenant Holladay, who was 
the fourth man in the column. 

Anxious to avoid a fire fight, the 
platoon leader ordered the two scouts to 
withdraw below the barbed wire and 
move to the left. In compliance, the 
column moved about twenty yards to 
the left and the leading men started to 
cut through the wire with a wire cutter. 
As the last strands were being cut, the 
men saw a roving enemy patrol on the 
skyline about twenty-five yards away. 
They ducked below the entanglement, 
and Lieutenant Holladay directed them 
to move farther to the left to avoid the 
patrol. Before they had gone more than 
a few yards farther, the first eight or ten 
men lost contact with the rest of the 
platoon. As the leading men halted to 
regain contact, they heard the sounds of 
a fire fight to their right and began to 
receive hand grenades and light mortar 
fire. Still unable to penetrate the dark- 
ness very far, the men could not make 
out any Germans to the front. Finally, 
after four men had been wounded, the 
3d Platoon received orders from Captain 
King to withdraw to its old positions 



below the barbed wire in the draw be- 
tween the first and second fingers on the 
southwest slope of Hill 782. All reached 
safety except Pfc. John Lakowicz and 
Pvt. Marvin D. Beazley who lost their 
way near the rock formations and stayed 
there the rest of the day within a stone's 
throw of the enemy. 6 

On the right of the 3d Platoon, the 1 st 
Platoon of Company A in a column of 
squads — 1st, 3d, 2d — had pushed up the 
slope of the hill. Stepping easily through 
the low-strung barbed wire, the 1st Squad 
had gone a few yards beyond it when a 
German suddenly shouted, "Halt!" At 
the sound every man hit the ground, and 
S. Sgt. Herbert H. Davis, the squad 
leader, unable to determine the source 
of the cry, sent word back to the platoon 
leader for instructions. Lieutenant Mac- 
Minn relayed instructions for the squad 
leader to move his men over to the right. 
As the leading squad started out again, 
three Germans shouted at them. Pvt. 
Bruce A. Petty replied with his M-l rifle, 
killing one German with his first shot 
and another with his second. Other 
Germans replied furiously, seemingly 
with every weapon they had. From 
close-in positions on the front and right 
front they lobbed grenade after grenade 
into the area. Mortar shells fell all 
around, and a machine gun in a dugout 
to the right front began to find the range. 
One grenade wounded Pvt. Murray C. 
Faller and knocked the rifle from the 
hand of Private Petty, blowing him off 
the bank of the slope. 

The fire fight went on. In the dark- 
ness neither side could see the other well, 
and for both Germans and Americans 
the unevenness of the slope severely 

6 Combat Intervs with Colosimo, Grigsby, and 
Daughtry. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



139 



limited effective fields of fire for small 
arms. The enemy nevertheless had some 
advantage in the grenade exchange be- 
cause of his higher position and better 
knowledge of the terrain. As dawn ap- 
proached Lieutenant MacMinn observed 
that his platoon held a very exposed 
position in the bare area beyond the 
barbed wire, and daylight could be 
expected to improve the enemy's chances. 
Thus, for the sake of better cover, the 
lieutenant, with Captain King's approval, 
ordered the platoon to withdraw to the 
positions from which it had jumped off 
about forty-five minutes earlier. While 
the platoon withdrew, Platoon Sergeant 
Van Home, who had been tending a 
wounded man, Pfc. Raymond J. Charron, 
halted the 2d Squad a few yards below 
the barbed wire. Hearing German voices 
and movement on the slope above, Ser- 
geant Van Home and the 2d Squad fired 
in the direction of the sounds, but with 
undetermined results. 7 

All the platoon finally reached the 
jump-off point safely except Pvt. James 
R. Hickman of the 1st Squad, who had 
received no word from the men around 
him about the withdrawal. By the time 
he discovered that he had been left be- 
hind, daylight had come and he was 
afraid to move because of the exposed 
terrain. All day long he remained alone 
in this position thirty yards above the 
barbed wire near the German dugouts, 
only an eighteen-inch bank hiding him 
from enemy view. Frightened at first, 
he became more composed as the day 
wore on, finally rolling into his blanket, 
which he had carried with him in the 
attack. Above, he could hear the Ger- 
mans; below, the men of Company A. 



Through the longest day he had ever 
spent he was sustained only by a couple 
of swallows of water, one stick of chewing 
gum, and the urge to get back to his 
outfit. After dark, he crawled back 
through the barbed wire and rejoined 
his platoon. 8 

After Company A's attack began, the 
machine gun section of the Weapons 
Platoon could not find the 2d Platoon, 
through which it was supposed to pass 
before taking up supporting positions 
behind the 1st Platoon. At the barbed 
wire, the platoon sergeant, T. Sgt. 
Thomas A. Culpepper, saw what looked 
like a mine and steered the machine 
gunners some distance, perhaps fifty to 
seventy-five yards, to the right. As the 
men started through the wire again, they 
heard the enemy open fire on the 1st 
and 3d Platoons, who were in the lead 
on the left. The Germans evidently 
spotted the machine gunners too and 
covered the area near them with flares, 
mortar fire, and grenades. Though his 
men miraculously escaped casualties, 
Sergeant Culpepper knew they were in 
a difficult position. In any case, before 
the Weapons Platoon could be of much 
assistance to the company, the platoon 
sergeant would have to get in contact 
with the other platoons He decided to 
withdraw his men and try to regain 
contact with the company commander 
or the rifle platoon leaders. Too far to 
the right to reach the positions held the 
night before on the slopes of Hill 782, 
the machine gun section withdrew to a 
trail northeast of la Rocca; and before 
Culpepper regained contact with the rest 
of the company, the short-lived attack 
had ended. 9 



7 Combat Intervs with King, MacMinn, Van 
Home, South, and Whary. 



8 Combat Intervs with Van Home and Hickman. 

9 Combat Interv with Culpepper. 



140 



THREE BATTLES 



After its abortive attack, Company A 
stayed in covered positions on the south- 
west slope of Hill 782 below the barbed 
wire throughout 14 September. Captain 
King, out of communication with the 
remainder of the battalion, was in no 
position to co-ordinate with Company B, 
which had been scheduled to make con- 
tact with Company A before both units 
jumped off toward the crest of the 
mountain. 10 At 1415 the 338th Infantry 
CP was informed that Company A was 
on the west slope of Monte Altuzzo 
beyond Hill 782 and on the upper central 
part of the bowl, some 250 yards north 
of its actual position on the southwest 
slope of Hill 782. The report also stated 
that Company A had been forced to pull 
back because of a pillbox and well- 
emplaced riflemen. 11 

Company B Moves Out 

On 1 3 September, after Colonel Jack- 
son had decided to commit Company B 
in a dawn attack with Company A, Capt. 
Maurice E. Peabody, Jr., Company B 
commander, ordered his 2d Platoon 
leader, 1st Lt. John M. Neuffer, to send 
a reconnaissance patrol to locate a suit- 
able route of advance to the main Altuzzo 
ridge. The patrol left at approximately 
1600 (13 September) from the vicinity 
of the battalion command post at Pare- 
taio. It was headed by S. Sgt. Hugh C. 
Brown, 2d Squad leader, and included 
Sgt. Gamelil Mullins, Pfc. Harold Cetel, 
Pfc. Marion L. Boston, and Pfc. Kenny 
R. Beverage. Having followed the high 
trail from Paretaio to the thick woods 
that lay at the edge of the open field 
where the leading squad of Company A 

10 Combat Intervs with King and Gresham. 

11 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44 



had first received fire that morning, the 
patrol crossed the woods and spied a 
little irrigation ditch that led across the 
open field toward the main draw of 
Rocca Creek. By use of this route, 
Sergeant Brown concluded, Company B 
could gain the shelter of the creek bed 
and once there would be at the edge of 
the lower slopes of Monte Altuzzo. 

After the patrol returned with this 
information, Captain Peabody decided 
there would be no difficulty in moving 
his men to the position which the bat- 
talion commander had told him Com- 
pany A occupied on the slopes of Hill 
782. Since the main Altuzzo ridge was 
the only ridge in sight along the route his 
men would take, Peabody saw no need 
to ask for guides from Company A. He 
felt confident that he could make contact 
with Company A by SCR 300 when he 
came within radio distance. 12 So sure, 
in fact, was Captain Peabody that, when 
he was asked how he knew he could find 
Company A, the Company B commander 
replied, "Oh, I'm an old hunter — I 
can't miss." 13 

Before the jump-off, Captain Peabody 
was also confident regarding the outcome 
of the attack. Although he had always 
regarded intelligence information skep- 
tically, he had concluded on the basis of 
information he had received that the 
enemy held Monte Altuzzo only lightly 
and that the positions were far less for- 
midable than those at the Futa Pass. A 
Partisan report, which Captain Peabody 



12 Combat Intervs with Brown, Mullins, and Pea- 
body; Intervs and Notes of terrain reconnaissance 
with Peabody, T Sgt Herman Ledford, and 1st Sgt 
Charles J. Dozier; Capt Maurice E. Peabody, Jr., 
Narrative of the Attack on Peabody Ridge, MS, 
Nov-Dec 44 (hereafter cited as Peabody MS), 1st 
Bn, 338th Inf, S-l Files. 

13 Combat Interv with Souder. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



141 



had seen, emphasized the weakness of 
the enemy's defenses in the Giogo Pass 
area. The defenses consisted, so the 
story ran, of hasty machine gun fortifica- 
tions lacking even protective mines or 
barbed wire. Having little confidence 
in the 363d Infantry, Peabody turned a 
deaf ear to the reports that its Company 
L had met heavy resistance during the 
day. The night before when he had 
visited the 3d Battalion, 363d, he had 
noted the conflicting statements which 
that battalion's staff officers had made 
about the location of its rifle companies. 

As darkness neared, Company B made 
final preparations for attack. Captain 
Peabody briefed his platoon leaders, and 
before dark all commissioned and non- 
commissioned officers except the assistant 
squad leaders, who remained with the 
men, went to the top of the hill above 
the battalion command post and were 
shown their objective, the highest peak 
of Monte Altuzzo, Hill 926, and the ridge 
which led up to it. From their observa- 
tion point the objective stood out like 
a giant inverted funnel, towering above 
the narrow valley and the smaller peaks 
around it. None of the men suspected 
that any other part of the mountain could 
ever be mistaken for Hill 926. 

Throughout the day the men of Com- 
pany B had been ready to move at a 
moment's notice. Each rifleman had 
been issued two bandoleers of .30-caliber 
ammunition totaling twelve clips or 
ninety-six rounds, each light machine 
gun squad 750 rounds, and each rifle 
squad three or four hand grenades. 14 

14 Combat Intervs with Peabody and with 2d Lt 
Clemens M. Hankes, 2d Lt William J. Kelsey, and 
all surviving EM in Co B, 338th Inf. At the start 
of the Gothic Line operations, the 85th Division had 
twelve flame throwers; but since these weapons 
weighed seventy pounds when filled with fuel they 



During the early evening most of the 
men ate a K ration supper, drank water, 
and received the daily issue of a package 
of cigarettes, a tropical chocolate bar, 
and a stick of chewing gum. To make 
sure that valuable information identifying 
the outfit did not fall into enemy hands, 
each man was checked by squad and 
assistant squad leaders for unit recogni- 
tion material. The arrival of mail not 
long before the jump-off boosted morale, 
though it was too dark to read the mail 
and security too urgent to permit dis- 
tribution. While three of the platoons 
left their mail at the battalion aid station, 
the 3d Platoon took its mail along in the 
care of the platoon guide, who later gave 
it to an assistant squad leader, Sgt. 
David N. Seiverd. 15 

At 2115, while Company B was form- 
ing for its attack, the enemy shelled the 
area around Paretaio Farmhouse but 
caused no casualties. Fifteen minutes 
later the company, with the 2d Platoon 
of heavy machine guns from Company D 
attached, crossed its initial point at 
Paretaio in a single column and walked 
north along the wooded slopes that 
stretched east of the Scarperia-Firen- 
zuola highway. The company mission 
was clear: to reach Company A on the 
lower slopes of Hill 782 and, after making 
contact, to advance up the eastern slope 
of the main Altuzzo ridge while Company 
A advanced up the western slope until 
Hill 926 was occupied. 

Leading Company B was the 2d Pla- 
toon, followed by the 3d Platoon, corn- 
were not considered suitable offensive weapons in 
mountainous terrain where every extra pound counted 
and where the problem of fuel resupply was great. 
Memo, Maj Charles L. Badger to 85th Div CofS, 
14 Sep 44, 85th Div G-3 Jnl File, Sep 44. 

15 Combat Intervs with all surviving offs and EM 
in Co B. 



142 



THREE BATTLES 



pany headquarters, the Weapons Platoon, 
the attached heavy machine gun platoon, 
and the 1st Platoon. At the end of the 
column was a five-man detail which, as 
it moved, laid light telephone wire from 
the battalion CP. Because of the diffi- 
culty of movement over the rough terrain, 
the attached 2d Platoon of Company D 
carried only two heavy machine guns 
instead of its normal complement of four. 
Although the whole column easily ex- 
tended 500 yards on the ground, Captain 
Peabody considered the formation neces- 
sary for strict control because of the dark 
night (one could see scarcely ten yards 
ahead), the rugged terrain, and the 
narrow routes of approach to the line of 
departure and the objective. 

Following the high trail that wound 
along the slope northeast of Paretaio, 
Company B struck a steep, narrow draw 
cut by a branch of Rocca Creek. Here 
the men turned east, crossed the branch, 
and stumbled and groped their way down 
the hillside toward the grainfield and 
olive orchard that stretched beside the 
main Rocca Creek. Reaching the edge 
of the field, the column followed a path 
across the open ground to the deep, 
broad draw of the creek bed at a point 
where large trees lined the stream. As 
the column moved across the draw, some 
mortar fire fell near by but did not delay 
the advance. 

Throughout the march, contact be- 
tween men was frequently broken. In 
most cases the break occurred at the rear 
of the column in the 60-mm. mortar 
section and the attached heavy machine 
gun platoon where the heavy loads made 
it hard for the men to keep pace with the 
riflemen. Every time contact was lost 
the whole column had to stop until it 
could be restored. During these periods 



of waiting, some men fell asleep and 
dozed until the column was ready to 
move out again. The delay would have 
been even worse without the constant 
use of SCR 536's between platoons and 
company headquarters. 16 

When Company B left the main Rocca 
Creek bed it moved up the steep, rocky 
slopes of the finger of Hill 624 on the 
lower part of the main Altuzzo ridge. 
The first two or three men who started 
up the hill grasped bushes for support, 
but their heavy weight pulled the bushes 
out of the rocky ground and those who 
followed had to help each other up the 
slope. After passing up their rifles, they 
gripped hands together and raised each 
other from one level to the next. 

At the head of the column the 2d 
Platoon, going east toward the ridge line, 
moved about thirty yards past a trail on 
the slope of Hill 624 before the company 
commander ordered the men to come 
back to the trail and follow it through a 
group of big chestnut trees. Although 
the night was pitch black when the 
column reached this area on the north- 
west slope of Hill 624, Captain Peabody 
could see the crest of Monte Altuzzo 
limned against the skyline. He decided 
to follow the trail and guide on the peak 
in the belief that this course would bring 
him to Company A. 17 At 0025, 14 Sep- 
tember, the 338th Infantry telephoned 
the 85th Division G-3 that Company B 
was on the southwest slope of Hill 782 
about 500 yards below the peak. 18 

16 Combat Intervs with the following: 1st Lt Roberts 
Clay; all Surviving offs and EM of the Altuzzo action 
in Co B, 338th Inf; Peabody. See also Intervs and 
Notes of terrain reconnaissance with Peabody et al.; 
Peabody MS. 

17 Intervs and Notes of terrain reconnaissance with 
Peabody et al. 

18 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44; 85th Div G-3 
Jnl, 13-14 Sep 44. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



143 



Another Prominent Ridge 

Moving along the trail, Captain Pea- 
body lost sight of the main Altuzzo ridge 
and the highest peak, which the steep 
slope and the dark night now hid from 
view. As the trail wound back and forth 
around half-circle bends, it was hard for 
the company commander to be sure of 
the direction in which the column was 
moving. When he reached the lower 
slopes of Hill 782 on the trail near where 
he thought Company A was located, he 
tried in vain to raise Captain King on 
the SCR 300. The Company B com- 
mander then directed his men to continue 
around the last bend of the trail on the 
large finger of Hill 782. Reaching the 
base of the bowl where a big tree lay 
sprawled across the trail, he stopped the 
column to get his bearings and to mark 
out the route of advance. 

Captain Peabody noticed now for the 
first time that there were two equally 
prominent ridges, one to his left and one 
to his right, both running in a north-south 
direction. He could not even see the 
highest peak of Monte Altuzzo, for it was 
now hidden by trees and the steep slope 
that led to it. Even in daytime the ridge 
line on the left would have seemed from 
the base of the bowl higher than the 
main Altuzzo ridge on the right, because 
the peak, Hill 926, was obscured from 
view. The sight of two equally high 
parallel ridges was a new and confusing 
idea to Peabody. Before leaving Pare- 
taio, he had studied the terrain with field 
glasses, maps, and aerial photographs, 
and there had been no question in his 
mind but that the main Altuzzo ridge 
was the only prominent feature between 
Monte Verruca and Highway 6524 to 
the west. 



After another unsuccessful effort to 
raise Company A on the radio, Peabody 
radioed Colonel Jackson that he was un- 
certain as to his location. So that he 
could orient himself, he requested one or 
two smoke rounds on the highest peak of 
Monte Altuzzo; but when the smoke was 
fired Peabody could not see the rounds 
land and could only faintly hear their 
explosions. 

With smoke failing to identify his ob- 
jective, the Company B commander 
decided that the peak he wanted to reach 
must be on the left. If so, he deduced, 
Company B was then on the slopes of 
Monte Verruca. Since the 339th In- 
fantry was scheduled to place a thirty- 
minute artillery barrage on that feature 
and then attack it at 0500, he didn't want 
to prolong his stay in the area. 

Before moving out again, he notified 
Colonel Jackson that he would lead his 
men to the ridge on the left, which he 
thought was Monte Altuzzo. The bat- 
talion commander, still out of communi- 
cation with Company A and in no posi- 
tion to dispute Captain Peabody's judg- 
ment -of his location, gave his approval. 19 

At the 1st Battalion CP, information 
regarding Company B's location was 
meager but highly optimistic. At 0200 
Captain Quisenberry, the battalion S-3, 
reported Company B on the east slope 
of Hill 926 and Company A in the saddle 
to the north. Although he surmised that 
the two companies controlled the crest 
of the mountain, he awaited confirmation 
before reporting that information offi- 
cially. On the basis of this report, the 
338th Infantry at 0215 notified the 85th 

19 Combat Intervs with Peabody and Jackson; 
Intervs and Notes of terrain reconnaissance with 
Peabody et al.; Peabody MS; 338th Inf and 339th 
Inf Unit Jnls, 14 Sep 44. 




JAGGED CREST OF WESTERN RIDGE leading to the summit of Hill 926. This is 
the route taken by Captain Peabody's men. Note rock slabs jutting out from the bare ridge line. 



146 



THREE BATTLES 



Division G-3 that the 1st Battalion, 338th, 
controlled Hill 926, with Company A on 
the left and Company B on the right of 
the peak. In the advance, the report 
indicated, neither company had met re- 
sistance except harassing mortar fire. 
The regiment reported that, while its 
companies might be even farther along, 
these locations were definite. It was 
0430 before the 338th Infantry learned 
that its leading companies were not 
nearly so far forward. 20 

The ridge which Captain Peabody had 
selected as his objective was a boomerang- 
shaped spur of the main Altuzzo ridge. 
Branching off from Hill 926, the spur ran 
for some 500 yards almost due west and 
culminated in a rocky peak. From there 
it curved to the southwest and, con- 
tinuing roughly parallel to the main 
Altuzzo ridge for another 700 yards, 
formed the western rim of the bowl at 
whose base Peabody stood. 

About 100 yards long and 2,650 feet 
high, the rocky peak of this western ridge 
was studded with enemy positions which 
had been blasted from solid rock and 
covered the main ridge, the bowl on the 
east, the eastern arm of Monticelli, and 
the highway. For ninety yards across 
the top of the peak, about ten feet below 
the crest, a zigzag trench, three feet wide 
and six feet deep, connected heavy log 
bunkers. Covered with two layers of 
six-inch logs, the trench was topped by 
heavy rock fragments and soil which so 
merged into the natural rock formation 
that on first glance it was not visible from 
the outside. From two of the connecting 
bunkers, camouflaged with green matting 
and facing toward the road some 400 



™ 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44. 



yards to the west, effective fire could be 
placed on troops attacking along the 
highway up the bare ridge that led to 
the crest of Monticelli. Another position 
— a double pillbox with apertures for 
two machine guns — faced toward the 
main Altuzzo ridge and could cover a 
large part of the bowl with flanking fire. 
A fourth pillbox faced south and covered 
the draw between the western ridge and 
the highway. Spaced at intervals along 
the connecting zigzag trench were two 
observation posts that faced the bowl. 
From them observers could detect move- 
ment up the main ridge from the crest 
of Hill 782 past the main line of resistance 
on Knob 2. German riflemen in these 
lookout posts might easily fire across the 
main ridge line and the slopes of the 
bowl. 

South of the western peak a series of 
rock slab ledges extended down the ridge 
line for a hundred yards before giving 
way to bushes and trees for another thirty 
to forty yards. South of the wooded 
area more rocks jutted out for another 
twenty-five yards to the south. Below 
these rocks and almost halfway down the 
ridge was a bare, treeless, rockless area 
of about fifty yards. About midway 
through this open space, the enemy had 
erected a fifteen- to twenty-yard band of 
barbed wire which ran along the western 
slope of this ridge, across the ridge line, 
and over its bare eastern slope into the 
bowl. Consisting of several strands, the 
knee-high barbed wire was covered in 
the center of the ridge line by a manhole 
trench and on the east flank by a log 
pillbox. A machine gun from this pill- 
box could fire down the ridge line over 
the barbed wire and bring flanking fire 
across the lower half of the bowl, espe- 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



147 



cially the lower western slope of the main 
Altuzzo ridge. Another log bunker had 
been placed fifteen yards to the right rear 
of the first on the edge of the ridge line 
and sited to rake the lower half of the 
bowl. 21 On the night of 13-14 Septem- 
ber Captain Peabody was completely in 
the dark about these positions and the 
configuration of the hill he had chosen 
as his route of advance. 

By the time Captain Peabody had 
made his decision to go to the ridge on 
the west, the hours of darkness were fast 
running out. No one in Company B 
remembered the exact hour, but it must 
have been well toward dawn. Much 
time had been lost traversing the rough 
ground. There seemed to Peabody no 
good reason for delaying further by trying 
to reach Company A with radio, which 
had failed, or with patrols, which had 
not been tried. By this time he had the 
feeling that no matter what he did he 
would miss Company A. His primary 
concern was to lead his men out of the 
draw to his left onto high ground before 
daylight. From experience he knew 
that when dawn came the enemy covered 
draws and lower slopes with mortar and 
artillery fire. 22 

Stepping over the felled tree at the 
base of the bowl, the men of Company B 
walked up a trail that led west up the 
rocky western ridge. Reaching the ridge 



21 The discussion of terrain and defenses on the 
western ridge is based on at least ten trips to the area 
by the author from November 44 to April 45. Par- 
ticularly valuable reconnaissances were made with 
Lieutenant Kelsey and Sergeant Dozier, 23 December 
44, and with Captain Peabody, Sergeant Ledford, 
and Sergeant Dozier, 24 March 45. 

22 Peabody MS; Combat Intervs with Peabody and 
all other surviving offs and EM in Co B, 338th Inf. 



line, the 2d Squad of the leading 2d 
Platoon moved steadily northeast on the 
east slope until it ran into several strands 
of concertina barbed wire that stretched 
directly ahead across the eastern slope. 
Halting his squad, Sergeant Brown, the 
2d Squad leader, began to cut the strands 
with wirecutters, but before the job was 
finished Lieutenant Neuffer, the 2d 
Platoon leader, decided that too much 
wire stood in the way. To find an easier 
route he ordered the platoon to about- 
face, swing to the southwest, and advance 
to the nose of the ridge line. Once there 
it would turn north and push up toward 
the peak of what presumably was Monte 
Altuzzo. Swinging in an arc along a 
little trail, the 2d Platoon soon reached 
the southern end of a bare, open space 
that ran straight up the ridge line for 
fifty yards. On the march to this point 
the company had sustained two casual- 
ties; an automatic rifleman in the 1st 
Platoon had wrenched his knee, although 
he continued to limp along in the column, 
and a Weapons Platoon ammunition 
bearer had been slightly injured when he 
fell from a steep ledge. 

As soon as the 2d Squad, still in single 
file at the head of the 2d Platoon, reached 
the ridge line, the men moved just to 
the left of the crest and walked across a 
little dip in the open ground up to the 
barbed wire. There the file halted 
momentarily while Sergeant Brown, who 
had misplaced or left his wirecutters 
down on the east slope, sent for a pair 
carried by the assistant squad leader, 
Sergeant Mullins. After clipping the 
wire, Sergeant Brown reached the north- 
ern end of the entanglement and almost 
stumbled on a manhole trench hidden 
by a mesh camouflage net. While the 



148 



THREE BATTLES 



squad leader covered, the third man in 
the column, Private Beverage, probed 
with fixed bayonet into the position. It 
was empty. 

Fire Fight at the Barbed Wire 

Again the 2d Platoon's 2d Squad 
moved forward, but before the men had 
taken more than a few steps a German 
with a machine pistol in a dugout about 
twenty feet away on the right front 
opened fire. The first burst wounded 
Private Beverage in the left arm and 
killed Private Cetel, the rifle grenadier. 
Although the rest of the squad hit the 
ground, other Germans in the same dug- 
out began to find the range with hand 
grenades. Both Pfc. Abraham Rubin, 
BAR man, and Lieutenant Neuffer were 
painfully wounded in the face and hands, 
and the platoon leader was temporarily 
blinded. 

A moment later, from the right front 
a machine gun in the dugout above the 
barbed wire fired close to the men who 
were hugging the ground in the middle 
of the entanglement. Most of this fire 
went over the men's heads, but two other 
machine guns on the main Altuzzo ridge 
fired from the right flank and right rear, 
causing a number of casualties among 
the company's rear platoons. The most 
deadly fire came from a bunker which 
was dug into the side of the large finger 
of Hill 782. Again and again a machine 
gun from this bunker raked the bare 
ridge, making it worth a man's life to 
move. 

As the enemy's defensive fire began in 
earnest, Lieutenant Neuffer, his face and 
hands covered with blood from his 
grenade wounds, ordered Sergeant Brown 
to pull the leading men of the 2d Squad 



back through the barbed wire and build 
up a skirmish line. The other two 
squads of the 2d Platoon built up on the 
left flank and right rear of the 2d Squad, 
and the entire platoon returned the 
enemy's fire. 23 

As soon as the fire fight began, Captain 
Peabody ordered the 3d Platoon to move 
up abreast of the 2d, build up a skirmish 
line on its left flank, and attack up the 
ridge line. Because of the heavy fire 
which raked the exposed ground, the 3d 
Platoon leader, 1st Lt. Clemens M. 
Hankes, formed a skirmish line to the 
left rear of the 2d Platoon at the southern 
end of the bare spot, which dropped 
sharply from the hump to a steeper slope 
and thus gave some protection from the 
enemy fire. 24 The rest of Company B 
and the machine gun platoon of Com- 
pany D had been stretched out in a 
zigzag column down the eastern slope of 
the ridge. At the sound of the first fire, 
the men in the rear had scattered for 
cover, hiding behind rocks and in little 
depressions in the ground. 25 

While the fire fight was still in progress, 
a German soldier shouting " KameracC 
popped out of nowhere and surrendered 
to the 2d Platoon's leading men. While 
Pvt. Frederick Koss, a BAR ammunition 
bearer, covered the enemy prisoner, Pvt. 
Idelmo Salmestrelli, an assistant squad 
leader, stripped him of a grenade belt 

23 Combat Intervs with Peabody, Brown, Mullins, 
and Pvt Idelmo Salmestrelli; Intervs and Notes of 
terrain reconnaissance with Ledford; Peabody MS. 

21 Ibid.; Combat Intervs with the following: S Sgt 
William E. Ford, Lusk, Pfc Patrick H. McDonald, 
Jr., and Pfc Willie E. Guy; Hankes. 

20 Combat Intervs with the following: T Sgt 
Arthur O. Tomiet, T Sgt Louis S. Campbell, S Sgt 
Joseph T. Barrow, S Sgt James M. Burrows, S Sgt 
John D. Brice, Pfc John S. Ptaszkiewicz, Sgt Howard 
C. Pecor, Sgt Alvin L. West, Pfc James W. Wright, 
and Pfc Arthur E. Collins, Kelsey-Dozier. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



149 



and tossed it out of reach. The 2d 
Platoon sergeant, T. Sgt. Fred C. Lang, 
quizzed the prisoner and learned that the 
enemy had posted about fifty men on the 
hill. Not far beyond the barbed wire, 
the German said, mines were planted on 
the left and right of the ridge line, but 
there were none in the center. 

Before the brisk skirmish was over, the 
wounded platoon leader, Lieutenant 
Neuffer, went down the hill, leaving 
Platoon Sergeant Lang in command. 
Armed with the information supplied by 
the prisoner, Sergeant Lang realized that 
his men would have to push up the ridge 
and take the peak before the approaching 
daylight enabled the enemy to place 
accurate fire on the ridge and perhaps 
sweep Company B back down the moun- 
tain. Failing to reach the company com- 
mander by SCR 536, he directed the 
platoon guide, S. Sgt. Herman Ledford, 
to lead the way up the ridge with a small 
patrol and promised to follow close 
behind with the rest of the platoon. 26 

Ledford' s Patrol 

Taking with him four men from the 3d 
Squad, Sergeant Ledford moved through 
the barbed wire ahead of the rest of the 
2d Platoon. In fear that the Germans 
who had put up the short but stiff fight 
were lying low while the patrol passed, 
Ledford's men examined the outpost 
position which covered the wire entangle- 
ment and the bare spot on the hill below. 
Just past the entanglement Sergeant 
Ledford looked into a bough-lined slit 
trench right on the ridge line and found 
it empty. On the right Pfc. Anthony J. 
Odierna examined the dugout from 
which the grenades and the close-in 



26 Combat Intervs with Ledford and Salmestrelli. 



machine gun fire had come and found 
only a single dead German slumped 
inside, a hole through his head. 

Followed by the rest of the patrol, 
Sergeant Ledford continued up the 
mountain through a space of brush and 
scattered trees a few yards to the left of 
the ridge line. Reaching the first rock 
slab ledge above the barbed wire, he 
placed his two rear men in a position to 
cover the further advance of the rest of 
the patrol. Then, followed by Private 
Odierna and Pvt. William C. Brodeur, 
he moved through a relatively open 
brush-covered space to a second rock 
ledge. Private Brodeur, a heavy man 
well into his thirties, was panting heavily 
and looked as if he could not continue. 
The other two men stopped suddenly 
at a path which crossed the ridge line 
and examined a sign tacked on a tree. 
The sign read: "A/Yn<?R." 

Because he believed what the prisoner 
had reported, that there were mines only 
on the east and west slopes and none in 
the center of the ridge, Ledford was not 
inclined to heed the sign's warning. He 
judged — correctly — from the way the sign 
was placed that the enemy intended it 
as a ruse to deny use of the trail. 

Undeterred by the mine warning, 
Ledford motioned for the two men who 
were still in covering position at the first 
rock ledge to join him. When they 
arrived, he posted them as guards at the 
path to protect the rear while he and 
Odierna and Brodeur continued up the 
ridge. 

Before moving out again, Ledford 
asked Brodeur, who had been well 
winded by the first leg of the journey, if 
he could continue. Although the older 
soldier did not answer, when Ledford and 
Odierna started out they noticed that 



150 



THREE BATTLES 



Brodeur was still with them. Advancing 
on the left of the ridge line, the three men 
passed through brush and small trees and 
finally worked their way into a rocky 
area. The higher they went, the steeper 
became the slope. Brodeur was now 
feeling the pace strongly and dropped 
from sight of the other two. Ledford 
and Odierna continued to climb upward, 
most of the time on their hands and knees 
over rocky ledges. They could hear the 
fire and watch the tracers from machine 
guns farther up the ridge firing over their 
heads down the mountain. 

When they finally reached the bottom 
of the last rock slab ledge below the 
southern end of the ridge's peak, they 
paused briefly to get their breath and 
take stock of the situation. Just above 
them beyond the top of the ledge they 
could see dust raised by bullets from a 
German machine gun and could hear 
its staccato bursts. Sergeant Ledford 
climbed noiselessly up the face of the 
rock slab and stuck his head over the 
edge. There, in full view and a scant 
ten yards away, was the muzzle of the 
German gun. 

Pulling his head down behind the rock 
ledge, Sergeant Ledford called for Private 
Odierna to pass up hand grenades. If 
the grenades failed to silence the machine 
gunner, Ledford whispered, Odierna was 
to finish the job with his rifle. While 
the gun above continued to sputter away, 
Ledford again edged up to where he 
could see and flipped a grenade to his 
right front inside the position. The 
machine gun abruptly ceased fire. Al- 
most at the same moment, Odierna, who 
had seen another German through the 
embrasure of a bunker to his left front, 
warned Ledford to watch for action from 
that side. 



Since no sound came from the left 
position, Sergeant Ledford thought that 
any Germans there were merely biding 
their time before opening fire. To make 
sure that they would not fire, he again 
crawled over bare rock to the top of the 
ledge. Crouched between the two posi- 
tions, he tossed a hand grenade into the 
left bunker. Following the explosion, 
all was quiet. 

Over in the right position the German 
moaned and jabbered. Aware that the 
near-dead sometimes miraculously spring 
to life, Ledford decided to make sure that 
both the gunner and his gun were out of 
action. Tossing another grenade into 
the right position, he quickly moved 
toward the barrel of the machine gun, 
which protruded from the embrasure. 
Keeping one eye on the German gunner, 
slumped inside but still moaning, he 
grasped the overheated barrel, unlatched 
the barrel and firing mechanism, de- 
tached them from the mount, and pulled 
the gun from the bunker. 

Private Brodeur, who had fallen behind 
in the ascent, had by this time caught up 
and taken position near the other two 
men. Private Odierna investigated the 
left bunker and reported finding a badly 
wounded German, evidently felled by 
Sergeant Ledford's second grenade. Not 
long afterward another German came 
out of a position behind the two bunkers 
and a few yards nearer the ridge's peak. 
First to see this new target, Ledford 
killed the German with a shot from his 
rifle. 

The sudden appearance of the last 
German whetted the desire of the men 
in the patrol to investigate the positions 
on the peak. Both Ledford and Brodeur 
climbed through the embrasure into the 
right bunker and strained their eyes 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



151 



through the darkness, but inside the posi- 
tion all was quiet. They probed to find 
an interior exit; but in the inky black- 
ness the rough-hewn chamber seemed 
a dead end, and they crawled back 
outside. Had they pressed the search, 
they might have discovered that the posi- 
tion was connected by a log-and-rock- 
covered trench with the bunker on the 
left and other positions farther up the 
peak. 

By the time Ledford and Brodeur came 
back into the open, the movement around 
the two bunkers, if not the earlier shots 
and exploding grenades, had attracted 
the enemy on the upper slope of the bowl 
southwest of Hill 926. There on the 
right front where the Germans held 
positions in rocks and pine trees, enemy 
rifles and a machine pistol opened fire 
on the bunker area where the three 
Americans crouched. Although Sergeant 
Ledford replied with rifle fire, he had 
fired only a clip or two before a bullet 
wounded him in the nose and face. With 
blood streaming from his ears and nose, 
he called to Brodeur and Odiema, "I'm 
hit!" and started down the ridge. 27 
Odiema and Brodeur remained near the 
two positions at the southern end of the 
peak, taking cover alongside the German 
bunkers. 28 

2d and 3d Platoons Move Up 

As the wounded platoon guide walked 
down the hill, the rest of the 2d Platoon 
was moving up the ridge above the 
barbed wire. After the first skirmish, 
Sergeant Lang had ordered the rest of 
his men to advance up the ridge, directing 
them to fire high in order to spare their 

27 Combat Intervs with Brodeur and Ledford. 

28 Combat Interv with Brodeur. 



comrades in the patrol but still to pin 
down the enemy. Dispersed in small 
groups and keeping no regular skirmish 
line or other formation, the men moved 
as rapidly as the steep slope would per- 
mit. A few at a time, they ducked 
through the low brush, the rocks, and 
the trees and pulled themselves from one 
level to the next. Although they fired 
occasional shots, most men saved their 
ammunition in case they should later 
run into stiff opposition. Early daylight 
was streaking the hillsides, but the morn- 
ing haze screened the men from the 
enemy on the main Altuzzo ridge and 
along the slopes beside the highway. 
Because of limited visibility, the enemy 
put only harassing fire in the area, and 
most shots passed harmlessly overhead. 

About one hundred yards above the 
barbed wire, the 2d Platoon passed 
through a heavily wooded area that 
stretched across the ridge line and up 
along the west slope toward the peak 
where a heavy rock formation dropped 
off sheer into a gorge. Beyond the trees 
the men came to another rock ledge 
where some took up positions. Others 
continued past waist-high rock slabs 
stretching across the ridge line. To keep 
their balance as they climbed, the men 
dropped almost to their knees. Another 
group walked to the left of the rocks 
through small, heavily foliaged trees until 
they came to a space between the top of 
the third rock ledge and another higher 
ledge lying just a few yards below the 
south end of the peak. Here most of the 
2d Platoon stopped, but a few, including 
Pfc. Albert E. Wilson, Pfc. David R. 
Leon, and Pvt. Jules D. Distel, the 3d 
Squad's BAR team, climbed above the 
last rock ledge where they could see 
Brodeur and Odierna just above them. 




MAP 12 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



153 



After checking his men's positions, Ser- 
geant Lang tried in vain to reach the 
company commander by SCR 536. 29 

Shortly after the 2d Platoon had 
reached these positions, but before the 
men had dug in, the two leading squads 
of the 3d Pla toon came up to the third 



rock ledge. {Map 12) Singly or in 



groups of four or rive men, they advanced 
up the hill in the face of only harassing 
fire. The squads kept no formation, and 
only about fifteen men went the whole 
way to the advanced positions. Of those 
that did, some stopped at the northern 
edge of the wooded area on the ridge line 
just to the rear of the 2d Platoon, and 
others took up positions between the 
second and third rock ledges from the 
peak on the left flank in the bushes and 
small trees to the west of the ridge line. 
With these men came T. Sgt. William A. 
Scheer, the 3d Platoon sergeant, who 
joined Sergeant Lang and organized his 
own men in defensive positions before he 
was hit in the arm by a burst of machine 
gun fire. 30 

Not long after the 3d Platoon reached 
the positions of the 2d, Private Brodeur, 
who from the highest rock ledge had the 
best observation, spotted an enemy tank 
moving from behind a house on the high- 
way to the front. It moved off the road 
and came to a halt 500 yards to the north 
of and below Company B's advanced 
positions. 

While the tank was still too far away 
to make a good target, Brodeur called 
down to Sergeant Lang for a bazooka, 
and the platoon sergeant relayed the 

29 Combat Intervs with Ford, Mullins, Salmestrelli, 
Pfc John E. Catlctt, Pfc Leslie N. Albritton, Pvt 
George Itzkowitz, Distel, Leon, Wilson, and Pvt 
Thomas H. Sherman. 

30 Combat Intervs with Ford, Lusk, Guy, and 
McDonald. 



message to his bazooka team. Pfc. Leslie 
H. Albritton and his assistant bazooka 
man moved up to Sergeant Lang, but 
when the sergeant described the tank's 
location and the exposed position from 
which the men would have to fire the 
assistant bazooka man protested. Ser- 
geant Mullins, assistant squad leader of 
the 2d Platoon's 2d Squad, heard the 
protest and told the soldier to hand over 
the ammunition. Taking the two rounds, 
Sergeant Mullins followed Brodeur and 
Albritton to a small bare spot between 
the two top rock slabs. Brodeur pointed 
out the target, and Albritton crawled 
five yards farther to place the bazooka in 
firing position amid a clump of bushes. 
With Sergeant Mullins loading, Albritton 
fired; the first round landed a hundred 
yards short. 

The enemy tank started its motor and 
drove around a bend in the road. Again 
Sergeant Mullins loaded the bazooka, 
and Albritton fired. The second rocket 
fell within twenty-five yards of the target, 
bringing from the tank a quick answering 
round that barely missed the men on the 
western slope of the ridge. Having fired 
their only ammunition, the bazooka men 
withdrew. 31 

The infantry-tank exchange was scarce- 
ly over before the men in the 2d and 3d 
Platoons saw a half-dozen Germans walk 
nonchalantly down the highway to the 
northwest. At the same time the 3d 
Platoon leader, Lieutenant Hankes, and 
the 2d (support) Squad of the 3d Platoon, 
who were farther down the hill but on 
their way up, saw the same movement. 
Both groups of Company B opened fire. 
An automatic rifleman, Pfc. Ira Jones, 
killed one of the enemy, but the others 

31 Combat Intervs with Brodeur and with Mullins, 
Albritton, Catlett, Salmestrelli, and Itzkowitz. 



154 



THREE BATTLES 



hit the ground quickly and deployed 
along the road or in the woods. One of 
the Germans remained there almost 
forty-five minutes while the Company B 
riflemen tried to pick him off. Finally 
the man rose, ran off a short distance, 
and plunged or fell into a ditch, possibly 
a victim of Company B's fire. A short 
while afterward the survivors of this 
German group set off a detonation which 
blew up a section of the highway just 
beyond the U-bend across the draw from 
the Company B positions. 

All the while the men in the 2d and 3d 
Platoons were becoming more exposed 
to fire from the flanks and rear. As the 
day grew brighter, the aim of German 
riflemen from the main Altuzzo ridge and 
the slopes near the highway grew better. 
No matter how small the men managed 
to make themselves against the hard rock 
or bare ground, enemy sharpshooters 
picked them off at frequent intervals. 
German riflemen even tried to creep up 
and surprise them and before being 
driven away caused several casualties. 
Most men had cover on the front, but 
few had protection on the flanks or rear. 
Their attempts to dig foxholes in the 
rocky soil succeeded in little more than 
scraping away the topsoil. Sgt. Harvey 
E. Kirkes, acting 1st Squad leader, 3d 
Platoon, and Pvt. Willie L. Guy, his rifle 
grenadier, tried to dig a double slit 
trench in front of a big rock ledge. At 
first Private Guy dug while his companion 
watched for the enemy. When the hole 
was about six inches deep, they shifted 
places. Taking up the entrenching tool, 
Sergeant Kirkes had lifted it only a few 
times before a German from the left near 
the highway killed him with a rifle shot 
in the chest. 



The German marksmen from the main 
Altuzzo ridge and the slopes near the 
highway fired often at Sergeant Lang, 
who moved around more than the others, 
giving orders and organizing the defense. 
When the sergeant's position became too 
hot, he moved to the middle of the two 
platoons and dug another shallow hole 
in the rocks. At two different times 
Sergeant Lang and Private Salmestrelli 
discovered Germans on the west slope 
trying to creep up on them but in both 
cases drove them away by fire. 32 

After the unsuccessful effort to knock 
out the tank, Sergeant Lang and his 
runner, Pvt. Thomas H. Sherman, tried 
repeatedly to reach Captain Peabody by 
SCR 536. Fully aware of his difficult 
and exposed position, the 2d Platoon 
sergeant wanted to have artillery fire 
placed on the tank, report the discovery 
of the Germans who had blown the road, 
and request reinforcements from the 1st 
Platoon, which, although he did not 
know it, was still below the barbed wire. 
After every effort to use the radio had 
failed, probably because its batteries 
were weak after all-night operation, 
Sergeant Lang told Private Sherman to 
go down the hill with a message. 

As the platoon runner moved down 
the hill and reached the lower end of the 
wooded area where the mine sign hung 
on a tree, he met Lieutenant Hankes, 3d 
Platoon leader; Pfc. Noble R. Mathews, 
his runner; and Pfc. Morris H. Kruger, 
a rifleman, who were coming up the 
ridge. Behind them the 2d Squad of 
the 3d Platoon was still moving forward, 



32 Combat Inter vs with the following: Hankes and 
Seiverd, Mullins, Catlett, Leon, Guy, Lusk, Salmes- 
trelli, Itzkowitz, and Wilson; Pfcs Alton Mos and 
John Campbell; Brodeur and Pfc William Alberta. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



155 



although the squad had not yet come in 
sight. Private Sherman told Lieutenant 
Hankes about Sergeant Lang's message 
to Captain Peabody, but he could not 
make clear the tank's exact location. 
Lieutenant Hankes felt that if Sherman 
showed him the way to the positions 
which the 2d and 3d Platoons held, he 
himself could locate the tank's position 
exactly so that accurate artillery fire 
could be placed on it. Blocking off the 
trail near the mine warning sign and 
leaving his runner, Private Mathews, to 
steer the support squad away from the 
mines, the platoon leader followed Pri- 
vate Sherman up the hill. 33 

Accompanied by Sherman and Kruger, 
Lieutenant Hankes had gone only a short 
distance when he ran almost head on 
into three Germans. Although both 
groups hit the ground quickly, the Ger- 
mans had had the first view, and scarcely 
before the three Americans had time to 
duck behind a low rock ledge a German 
grenade landed at Kruger's feet. Un- 
harmed by the grenade but knowing that 
the Germans had seen where they hit the 
ground, the three men shifted slightly 
to the right. The move gave no imme- 
diate relief, for more concussion grenades 
struck within a few yards of them. 
Stretched out on the ground, Lieutenant 
Hankes watched one five-second grenade 
land a foot away from his legs. At first he 
started to pick up the grenade and throw 
it back, but as he hesitated, fearful that 
the grenade might blow off his hands or 
face before he could get it away, it 
exploded. When he regained his senses, 
he found that he had been wounded in 
both legs. 

Suspecting that the enemy was curious 

li Combat Intervs with Hankes and Sherman. 



to know the effect of the grenades, the 
lieutenant poked his carbine over the 
ledge. The Germans fell for the trick. 
First a machine pistol, then a head, rose 
slowly above the edge of the rocks. 
Lieutenant Hankes fired, killing the in- 
quisitive German. Then Private Sher- 
man worked his way into a better position 
and fired. From the high-pitched scream 
that followed, he judged that he had 
killed another German. 

With two of the three enemy disposed 
of, Lieutenant Hankes decided that 
Kruger and Sherman could manage the 
lone German that remained. Hampered 
by the wounds in both legs, the lieutenant 
wormed his way down the hill about 
thirty yards. When he examined his 
pack, he found that bullets and grenade 
fragments had ripped the cans in his K 
rations and splattered food over the 
inside of his pack. 

After taking sulfanamide wound tab- 
lets, the lieutenant continued down the 
hill to the company command post, found 
Captain Peabody, and explained to him 
the plight of the 2d and 3d Platoons. In 
their exposed position, he pointed out, 
they had suffered heavy casualties and 
needed reinforcements and artillery fire 
against the tank. Their rear, he added, 
was threatened continually by German 
riflemen wandering almost at will over 
the ridge. Peabody directed the lieu- 
tenant on to the battalion aid station and 
ordered the acting 1st Platoon leader, 
Sgt. William J. Kelsey, to move his 
platoon up the ridge, clear out the snipers 
who held out in rear of the lead platoons, 
and set up defensive positions on the 
flanks of the advance platoons. 34 

34 Ibid. Combat Intervs with Peabody, Kelsey, 
and Dozier. 



156 



THREE BATTLES 



First Counterattack 

Farther up the hill, before the 1st 
Platoon moved up to carry out its mis- 
sion, Sergeant Lang and his men near 
the top of the ridge were hit by a barrage 
from 50-mm. mortars, opening the first 
German counterattack. The men ducked 
for whatever cover they could find behind 
rocks or in their shallow holes. Pfc. 
Lucien Harpin was wounded in the back 
by shell fragments, and Pfc. William C. 
Leonard, Jr., was killed. 

After a few minutes of uneasy quiet, 
the men were struck suddenly from the 
right front by approximately forty Ger- 
mans. Machine guns and rifles on the 
front and right flank blazed away, and 
hand grenades zoomed through the air, 
tearing up bushes on the left and nicking 
the rocks on all sides. For the most part 
the aim of the German grenadiers was 
good; but casualties were few, apparently 
because the grenades were concussion- 
type instead of fragmentation. 

Using BAR's, M-l's, and rifle gre- 
nades, the 2d and 3d Platoons returned 
the fire. On the right front the men 
could see the Germans darting from rock 
to rock, getting closer all the while. 
Every time a German came into view, 
Sergeant Lang's men fired back, and 
throughout the counterattack they kept 
area fire on the enemy force. Some men 
on the left, not in position to return the 
fire, moved a few feet to the right where 
they took cover behind rock slabs and 
ioined the fight. Because of the danger 
of hitting their comrades, only a few of 
whom could be seen from any one point, 
none of the Americans threw hand 
grenades. 

During the fire fight a few mortar 
shells landed in the area, and the Amer- 



icans spotted one of the mortars on the 
left rear in the draw just west of the ridge. 
An automatic rifleman, Pfc. Alton Mos, 
kept the position covered the rest of the 
time. At intervals when the Germans 
would come out to man the mortar, 
which stuck out nakedly in open ground, 
Private Mos drove them back with rapid 
bursts from his BAR. Finally, after his 
fire had wounded one German, the enemy 
abandoned the mortar. 

The superior firepower of the 2d and 
3d Platoons finally beat off the counter- 
attack and drove the Germans back to 
their bunkers and dugouts farther up the 
hill. Both sides had sustained several 
casualties, but neither knew the exact 
damage it had dealt the other. 

Although alert and resolute action had 
stood off the first enemy counterattack, 
Sergeant Lang knew that his force had 
gained only a temporary respite and that 
if he were to continue to hold he needed 
reinforcements and more ammunition. 35 
He sent a second messenger, Pfc. John E. 
Catlett, to ask Captain Peabody for 
assistance. At the company CP below 
the barbed wire, Private Catlett, unable 
to find the company commander, de- 
livered the message to the executive 
officer, 1st Lt. George O. Erkman. 
Lieutenant Erkman started up the ridge, 
but rifle and machine gun fire turned him 
back at the southern edge of the barbed 
wire. He returned to the CP and di- 
rected his headquarters men to set up 
security. 36 

Up the hill Sergeant Lang was growing 
more anxious. No messengers had re- 
turned and no reinforcements had arrived. 



36 Combat Intervs with Brodeur-AIberta and with 
Ford, Seiverd, MuIIins, Lusk, Guy, Distel, Leon, 
Wilson, Salmestrelli, Itzkowitz, and Catlett. 

36 Combat Interv with Catlett. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



157 



He sent two more men, Pfc. Donald J. 
Brown and Pfc. Patrick H. McDonald, 
Jr., with the same message for help. Al- 
though the two men started out together 
crawling over the rocks, Private Brown 
stopped for a moment to take a shot at 
a German. When Private McDonald 
looked back again, he saw that Brown 
had been shot and was lying on his back. 
Seeing that his companion was beyond 
help, McDonald moved on down the 
ridge. As he crossed the barbed wire 
under fire and approached the CP area, 
he met S. Sgt. George D. Keathley, 1st 
Platoon guide, and about seven other 
men from the 1st Platoon moving up the 
ridge. There too he found Captain 
Peabody and delivered Sergeant Lang's 
message. 

Captain Peabody replied that help was 
on the way and that he himself was going 
up the hill at once. To remedy the 
ammunition shortage he radioed the 
battalion commander for resupply, and 
Colonel Jackson promised to send ammu- 
nition at once. He directed the Com- 
pany B commander to hold his position 
at all costs. From the battalion com- 
mand post Colonel Jackson sent a 
volunteer ammunition detail of twelve 
men carrying six boxes of ammunition. 
When the detail entered the open field 
beside la Rocca draw, small arms and 
artillery fire killed the leading man, 
wounded two others, and forced the rest 
to turn back. Captain Peabody himself 
sent two men to Company C for help. 
Heavy fire turned them back as well. 37 

Before dawn Colonel Jackson had re- 
ported that Companies A and B had 
been almost on top of Monte Altuzzo 

37 Combat Intervs with all enlisted survivors in 
Co B, 338th Inf, and with Jackson and Peabody; 1st 
Bn, 338th Inf, AAR, Sep 44; Peabody MS. 



during the night and that he had ordered 
them to occupy the crest. By 0655 he 
had learned from Captain Peabody that 
Company B was in a fire fight, had sus- 
tained casualties, and was receiving 
effective small arms fire from Monte 
Verruca (actually Monte Altuzzo). 38 

1st Platoon Moves Forward 

Soon after the first counterattack had 
ended, part of the 1st Platoon of Com- 
pany B had responded to Captain Pea- 
body's order to move up the hill to assist 
the advance platoons. Earlier, when the 
enemy had first opened fire on Company 
B at the barbed wire, the 1st Platoon had 
been stretched out behind the 3d Platoon 
and had scattered in search of cover. At 
the sound of the fire fight, Sergeant 
Keathley, the platoon guide, had told the 
leading squad leader, S. Sgt. Oliver N. 
Summerton, to remain in position while 
he made contact with Sergeant Kelsey, 
acting 1st Platoon leader, who was some- 
where up ahead. Taking with him 
Sergeant Summerton's assistant squad 
leader, Pfc. Vincent C. Clarke, and six 
other men from the leading squad, 
Sergeant Keathley moved around the 
eastern slope below the bare spot and the 
barbed wire to the hump, where he found 
Sergeant Kelsey and Captain Peabody. 
For some time, certainly until well into 
the morning, this handful of 1st Platoon 
men remained in these positions while 
Peabody tried in vain to reach the 2d 
and 3d Platoons by radio. 

Lieutenant Erkman, the company 
executive officer, attempted with more 
success to locate and concentrate the rest 
of the company around the command 



38 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44. 



158 



THREE BATTLES 



post, including the Weapons Platoon and 
the heavy machine gun platoon of Com- 
pany D. All except the main part of 
the 1st Platoon, which had so dispersed 
that the men were out of contact with 
each other, were readily located and 
instructed to put out security and lie low 
for the time being. Most men of the 1st 
Platoon were scattered over the eastern 
slope out of sight of each other and out 
of the physical control of their squad 
leaders. Accurate enemy rifle fire on the 
area added to the confusion and lack of 
control. 

After Captain Peabody's order for the 
1st Platoon to move up the hill, Sergeant 
Kelsey, the platoon leader, sent forward 
Private Clarke and six other men from 
Sergeant Summerton's squad, who had 
been below the hump. Sergeant Keath- 
ley, the platoon guide, then returned to 
the eastern slope to assemble the rest of 
the platoon. Finding Sergeant Sum- 
merton, the platoon guide ordered him to 
move out with the rest of his men and to 
pass word back to the other squads to 
follow. 

Sergeant Summerton notified the 
squads behind him and started forward 
with the two or three men remaining in 
his squad. He had taken scarcely one 
step forward before enemy fire from the 
main Altuzzo ridge wounded him. The 
two men nearest him, Pfc. Arley Perkey 
and Pvt. Hamilton Adams, moved back 
toward the company command post. 
Although Private Adams was wounded 
on the way, Private Perkey reached the 
CP, obtained a BAR belt from 1st Sgt. 
Volley Casey, and started again over the 
hump toward the barbed wire. As he 
entered the bare space, heavy small arms 
fire drove him back for the second time 
to the vicinity of the CP. 



Despite the dispersion of the 1st Pla- 
toon, the message to move up filtered 
back to the other two squad leaders, Sgt. 
Nelson L. Simmons and S. Sgt. Charles 
J. Dozier. They, in turn, tried to pass 
word back to their men, but lack of a 
direct line of contact hampered their 
efforts. In all, only half the men of 
the 2d and 3d Squads responded to the 
order and followed their leaders. A few 
men, like Pvt. Louis S. Campbell and 
Pfc. Joseph T. Barrow, of Sergeant 
Dozier's squad, did not receive word that 
their platoon was moving up but, seeing 
men farther up the ridge, decided to join 
them. Others may not have heard the 
call, as they said, and some men either 
heard it or saw other members of the 
platoon ahead of them move out while 
they themselves stayed in place, afraid 
to follow because of the rifle fire the 
enemy was placing on the slope. Al- 
though one acting assistant squad leader 
heard a man shout from the slope above 
him that the 1st Platoon was moving up, 
he did not want to believe his ears and 
shouted back to the man above to find 
out more about the movement. Hearing 
no reply and seeing no movement, the 
assistant squad leader decided to stay 
where he was with the three men around 
him until somebody in authority came 
down and personally told him to move 
up. All in all, some twenty men of the 
1st Platoon remained on the east slope 
or below the company CP throughout 
the day. Occasionally, one or two would 
return rifle fire against the main Altuzzo 
ridge; most made themselves as incon- 
spicuous as possible and took no part in 
the action. 

That half of the 1st Platoon which 
went up the hill had little trouble in 
crossing the bare space at the barbed wire 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



159 



and sustained only two casualties before 
reaching the top of the wooded area. On 
the way, one group of the platoon, led 
by Sergeant Kelsey, had advanced to a 
point just past the lowest rock ledge when 
a machine pistol opened fire, killing the 
platoon radio operator, Pfc. Angelo F. 
Crespi. Dropping to the ground, the 
rest of the men briefly exchanged fire 
with the German and then pushed on up 
the hill to the north edge of the wooded 
area. There Pvt. Kenneth T. Moore 
was killed by a German rifleman who 
slipped in close on the left flank. 

About seventeen men of the 1st Platoon 
reached the north edge of the wooded 
area and took up defensive positions. 
Private Clarke and six men went into 
position on the right flank on the east 
slope, Sergeant Dozier's squad on the 
left flank in the rocks just above the 
wooded area, and Sergeant Simmons, 
with four or five men, in the center. 39 
Only a BAR team was sent all the way up 
the ridge through the higher rocks to the 
direct assistance of the 2d and 3d Pla- 
toons; the others were, in effect, only 
guarding the rear of the forward posi- 
tions. 40 If the 1st Platoon had pushed 
out on the right flank of the 2d and 3d 
Platoons and tied in on a tight defensive 
line, the result might well have been 
disastrous. The eastern slope of the 
ridge where the 1st Platoon would then 
have been was exposed and, because of 



59 Combat Intervs with the following: Kelsey- 
Dozier; Dozier, Campbell, Barrow, Burrows, Sim- 
mons, and Casey; Pecor, Pfcs Luther Ingram, 
Marvin Cobb, James O. Brooks, Joseph T. La- 
Monica, Arley Perkey, and Pvt Edward L. Lazowski. 

40 Intervs and Notes of terrain reconnaissances with 
Kelsey-Dozier; Combat Intervs with all survivors 
from 1st, 2d and 3d Plats, Co B, 338th Inf, especially 
Salmestrelli. 



heavy underbrush to the front, had no 
field of fire. Even the rocks in the center, 
which offered some cover to the 2d and 
3d Platoons, thinned out on the east 
slope. Although the heavy band of trees 
on the west slope would have offered 
concealment, it would have allowed the 
1st Platoon no chance to observe enemy 
movement through the trees or to prevent 
surprise attacks. 

From the positions which the platoon 
did assume in the center rear and right 
rear of the forward platoons, it could at 
least place area fire and, in some cases, 
direct fire on enemy counterattacks mov- 
ing across the eastern slope. Still the 1st 
Platoon's coverage of the area was far 
from complete, and the right flank of 
the 2d and 3d Platoons remained ex- 
posed. Thus, owing largely to the open 
ground and the configuration of the hill, 
the 1st Platoon could not round out a 
perimeter defense for Company B. 41 

Neither Sergeant Kelsey, acting 1st 
Platoon leader, nor Captain Peabody 
knew how far ahead of the 1st Platoon 
were the 2d and 3d Platoon positions. 
Neither went up to find out or to see 
whether the rear and forward defenses 
were tied in tightly, and the men in the 
forward positions were left to wonder 
where the 1st Platoon was. 42 Certainly 
they had no reason to believe that it had 
come to their relief or was even in a 
supporting position. 43 

41 Terrain information based not only on inter- 
views, but on several trips by the author to the 
western ridge from November 1944 to April 1945. 

42 Combat Intervs with Peabody and Kelsey and 
with all enlisted survivors in Co B, 338th Inf. Cap- 
tain Peabody stated that he never realized until he 
went over the ground with the author how far ahead 
of his position were his 2d and 3d Platoons. 

43 Combat Intervs with all enlisted survivors in 2d 
and 3d Plats, Co B, 338th Inf. 



160 



THREE BATTLES 



Machine Guns and Mortars Move Forward 

After half of the 1st Platoon had set up 
its defensive positions at the north edge 
of the woods, the Weapons Platoon and 
the heavy machine gun platoon of Com- 
pany D followed suit, each going forward 
by squad bounds. Walking through the 
barbed wire one man at a time, Sgt. John 
D. Brice's light machine gun squad did 
not receive fire until the last man, Pvt. 
Raymond M. Babbitt, was hit in the 
hand. On the way up the ridge the 
same squad tried repeatedly to silence a 
German machine gun that kept firing 
from the main Altuzzo ridge. 

The machine gun section leader, S. 
Sgt. Arthur O. Tomlet, went up near the 
2d and 3d Platoons' sector to locate 
firing positions, while his two squads pro- 
ceeded to the north edge of the wooded 
area. Returning from his reconnais- 
sance, Sergeant Tomlet directed that the 
two guns be placed at the far end of the 
woods where they would face the road 
and cover the left flank. The forward 
gun was placed in the rocks at the south- 
ern edge of the third rock slab ledge. 
The second was set up ten yards to its 
rear and about halfway through the 
woods. In the rocks ahead and on the 
east slope, the section leader had found, 
there was neither zone of fire, cover, nor 
concealment for his guns. Hardly had 
the second gun been put in position 
before Sergeant Tomlet was wounded in 
the knee and toe by a rifle bullet. 

Although the machine gun positions 
of the Weapons Platoon were useful for 
fire on the draw between the western 
ridge and the highway, they could not 
be used for repelling counterattacks ex- 
cept on the extreme left flank, because of 
the danger of hitting the riflemen on the 



ridge up ahead. At intervals throughout 
the day the machine gunners placed 
harassing fire on the left flank, but most 
of the time they found the uncovered 
firing positions too dangerous to man. 
Almost every time a machine gunner 
moved, enemy fire wounded or killed 
him. 44 

Behind the light machine guns the two 
heavy machine guns of Company D were 
moved up the hill a short distance above 
the east-west trail where they were set up 
in heavy brush at the southern edge of 
the woods. Although one heavy gun 
faced up the eastern slope of the ridge 
and the other up the western slope, 
neither was of much help to the Company 
B riflemen. For one thing the machine 
guns had to fire through woods, and thus 
fire could not be accurately observed. 
Except for some harassing fire, the guns 
were used only when Germans were 
actually seen — and none were seen until 
late in the afternoon. The disadvan- 
tages, moreover, of firing these weapons 
straight up the ridge line were consider- 
able. Had they tried to cover the ridge 
line and the riflemen near the peak, the 
guns would have had to be moved into 
the open where they could have been 
easily knocked out. Even if the machine 
guns had shot straight up the ridge line, 
they could have covered only a small part 
of it, for the layers of rock ledges restricted 
observation and prevented accurate 
firing. 45 

However limited the usefulness of the 
machine guns to the defense of the ridge, 
use of the 60-mm. mortars was even more 
so. At the time of the 2d Platoon's fire 

44 Combat Intcrvs with Bricc and with Ptaszkie- 
wicz, Collins -West. 

4,5 Combat Interv with Clay. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



161 




GERMAN TRENCH AND OBSERVATION POST, part of the enemy s main line 
of resistance along Highway 6524. Portion of the western ridge of Monte Altuzzo is visible 
in the background. 



fight at the barbed wire, the mortar 
squads had been several hundred yards 
down on the lower east slope of the ridge. 
They remained below the hump until 
nearly noon when they received an order 
from Captain Peabody to move into 
firing positions above the barbed wire. 

As the mortar men grabbed their 
equipment and started forward, German 
riflemen and a machine gunner on the 
slope west of the highway raked the 
ground around them with fire. After 
the Americans hit the dirt, the machine 
gunner soon stopped firing, but the enemy 



riflemen were persistent. Although most 
of the mortar men had some concealment, 
none had any cover. Only two men 
were wounded, one of whom was hit 
three times, but others had close calls. 
A bullet tore through the heel of one 
man's shoe, and others struck the cloth- 
ing or equipment of at least four men. 
Digging in below the hump, the mortar 
squads stayed there the rest of the day, 
lack of communication with the forward 
platoons preventing use of their weapons. 46 



Combat Interv with Sgt Lester F. Wise. 



162 



THREE BATTLES 



Second Counterattack 

Not long after the machine guns and 
the 1st Platoon had taken positions in the 
wooded area above the barbed wire, the 
Germans launched a second counter- 
attack. Although men of the 1st Pla- 
toon's right flank joined the defense with 
harassing fire, the main brunt of the 
attack was borne again by the 2d and 3d 
Platoons. Like the first counterattack, 
the second began with a mortar barrage, 
followed by heavy fire from automatic 
weapons on both the western peak and 
the main Altuzzo ridge. Machine pistols 
fired from close by, and a barrage of 
grenades landed among the men in the 
higher rocks. In greater force than 
before, the Germans pressed their coun- 
terattack while Sergeant Lang's men 
replied with BAR's and rifles, continuing 
to fire even though their ammunition was 
rapidly dwindling. 

Because of the uneven slope and the 
rocks, the men on the right front caught 
only fleeting glimpses of the enemy. 
Those on the left saw no Germans at all 
but fired back over the rocks as the sounds 
of the battle came down to them. 
Suffering heavier casualties than before, 
the men in the forward positions finally 
managed to drive the Germans back to 
the peak. In the process individual sup- 
plies of ammunition were almost ex- 
hausted, and the men used the only 
means to refurbish the supply: those who 
were still in fighting condition removed 
clips from their dead and wounded 
comrades. 

While the second counterattack was 
still in progress, Sergeant Lang more than 
ever felt the urgent need for reinforce- 
ments and resupply. The radio still 
would not work and, as far as Sergeant 



Lang knew, every effort to get word to 
Captain Peabody by runner had brought 
no results. Since he did not know where 
the company commander was or when 
help could be expected, 47 he decided to 
send another messenger, Private Salme- 
strelli for help. 48 

After climbing over two or three rock 
slab ledges, Private Salmestrelli reached 
Sergeant Kelsey and the half-dozen men 
of Sergeant Dozier's squad of the 1st 
Platoon, who were in the lowest rocks at 
the north end of the wooded area. 
Upon receipt of the message, Sergeant 
Kelsey sent one BAR team, Pfc. John C. 
Garlitch and Pfc. George J. Van Vlack, 
to bolster the defense. Pointing the way 
to the two men, Salmestrelli started out 
behind them, but he had not gone far 
before rifle fire turned him back. Re- 
turning to the 1st Platoon sector, he 
helped Sergeant Kelsey remove two men, 
who had just been killed, from slit 
trenches about five yards apart. As soon 
as the holes were cleared, two other 1st 
Platoon men hopped in them. Private 
Salmestrelli and the 1st Platoon men 
in this area who had no holes then began 
to dig, but they were able only to scratch 
away the topsoil of the rocky ground. 
Hit in the head by enemy rifle fire, the 
1st Squad's automatic rifleman, Pvt. 
George J. DiFabbio mumbled a few 
words and fell over dead into Sergeant 
Dozier's arms at the edge of his slit 
trench. Watching this, Private Salme- 
strelli tossed away his shovel and began 
to cry. He moved down the ridge until 
he met Captain Peabody above the 
barbed wire at the southern edge of the 



47 Combat Intervs with Ford, Seiverd, Mullins, 
and with Lusk, Guy, Salmestrelli, Distel, Leon, 
Wilson, and Alberta. 

48 Combat Interv with Salmestrelli. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



163 



woods. Almost hysterical and badly 
shaken by his experience, he cried that 
he could not stay on the ridge any longer. 
Realizing the man was a nervous ex- 
haustion case, Peabody told him to go 
down below the barbed wire to the 
company command post. 49 

Third Counterattack 

Sometime after noon, the enemy, using 
fewer men than in the second counter- 
attack, launched a third against Com- 
pany B°s right front. Again the 2d and 
3d Platoons felt the full force of the 
assault as mortar shells, grenades, and 
automatic weapons fire landed among 
the rocks. Again the Germans were 
repulsed, but before withdrawing to the 
peak they had inflicted several more cas- 
ualties upon the two forward platoons. 50 

During and between counterattacks, 
while the casualties in Company B 
mounted, the platoon aid men worked 
constantly to bandage the wounded, ease 
their pain with shots of morphine, and 
bolster the morale of the more serious 
cases until evacuation could be accom- 
plished. Until the 2d Platoon aid man, 
Pfc. Edward J. Babbitt, Jr., was wounded 
after the first counterattack, he moved 
back and forth under fire giving first aid. 
The rest of the day the wounded in the 
two forward platoons either treated 
themselves or were tended by their com- 
rades. At times ingenious devices were 
improvised. To help T. Sgt. William 
A. Scheer, bleeding freely from a machine 
gun bullet wound in his arm, Private 
Albritton and Sergeant Brown took a 

49 Ibid.; Combat Interv with Dozier. 

50 Combat Intervs with Ford, Seiverd, Mullins, 
and with Lusk, Guy, Distel, Leon, Wilson, Alberta, 
and Brodeur. 



shoe string which was being used in place 
of a lost carbine strap and applied it as 
a tourniquet. In some cases the men 
were too seriously wounded to respond 
to first aid treatment or were in positions 
too exposed to receive it. Because of the 
lack of litters, evacuation of the more 
seriously wounded to the battalion aid 
station, or even to the company command 
post below the barbed wire, was im- 
possible. Even with litters it would have 
been a strenuous, costly task to carry the 
wounded over the steep, exposed ground. 51 
Although all the ambulatory casualties 
moved down the hill under their own 
power, for a long time most of them dared 
not cross the bare space at the barbed 
wire. In the area directly above the 
wire, Pfc. Joseph F. Bertani, 3d Platoon 
aid man, did yeoman service bandaging 
wounds and administering other first aid. 
By early afternoon some nine or ten 
wounded men had gathered in the brush 
above the entanglement. After several 
hours' wait, the bandaged men removed 
their helmets, stripped to the waist to 
show they were noncombatant, and 
passed through the wire behind Bertani, 
who improvised a white flag from a tri- 
angular bandage. The enemy let them 
pass without firing a shot. 52 

Company B's True Location 

Through most of the struggle on the 
ridge, much of Company B's distress 
arose from the fact that no one except 
the Germans had correctly located its 
position. All day long Captain Peabody 
had reported to the battalion commander 
that his men were on the eastern slope of 

51 Ibid.; Combat Interv with Albritton. 

52 Combat Intervs with the following: Bertani, 
Mos, Alberta, and Pfc Donald Brouthers. 



164 



THREE BATTLES 



Monte Altuzzo just below the peak. 53 
At 1 1 30 the 338th Infantry reported that 
Company B was inching forward on the 
southeast slope of Monte Altuzzo. Two 
hours later the 338th stated that the 
company was on the east slope of the 
"first nose of Hill 926." Again at 1500 
the 338 th operations officer reported to 
the 85th Division that Company A was 
on the west side of Hill 926 and Company 
B on the east side. Actually, at the time 
of the report Company A was 500 yards 
southwest of the crest, Hill 926, and 
Company B was 700 yards west and 100 
to 200 yards south of the location where 
it was reported. 54 

It was only by chance that Colonel 
Jackson discovered Company B's true 
location. Sometime during the after- 
noon Captain Peabody reported to bat- 
talion that he was receiving heavy fire 
from the west — the left flank — and asked 
for artillery fire to silence the enemy 
positions. As he weighed Peabody's call 
for help, Colonel Jackson decided that 
this fire must be coming from Altuzzo's 
western ridge, and he accordingly ordered 
fire placed there. When the shells began 
to land, Peabody radioed that the fire 
was falling just right — about two hundred 
yards straight ahead of Company B. 
For the first time Colonel Jackson knew 
that Peabody was not on the main 
Altuzzo ridge but on the ridge to the 
west. The company commander still 
insisted that he was on the main ridge, 55 
and it was that night before the men of 
Company B learned that they had never 
been on their objective. 56 

53 Combat Interv with Jackson. 
" 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44; 85th Div G-3 
Jnl, 14 Sep 44. 

5S Combat Interv with Jackson. 

5 * Combat Intervs with all enlisted survivors of Co 
B, 338th Inf. 



Supporting Fires 

Notwithstanding the erroneous infor- 
mation at higher echelons about Com- 
pany B's location, throughout the day 
supporting arms delivered heavy fire on 
the Altuz zo and Giogo Pass areas. {See 
Map 9.j During the day II Corps 
directed its divisional and corps artillery 
to maintain the "absolute practicable 
maximum of artillery fire" in the attack 
zone of the corps' main effort until the 
Gothic Line was breached. At the same 
time II Corps listed the priority of fires 
in this order: observed, counterbattery 
and countermortar, interdictory and 
harassing, and fires on known enemy 
positions, installations, or works. 

During the day the 329th Field Artil- 
lery Battalion in direct support of the 
338th Infantry fired numerous TOT and 
observed missions on enemy mortars, 
machine guns, and personnel, including 
five enemy vehicles, 1,000 yards north of 
the pass. During the morning a 155- 
mm. howitzer battalion of the 178th 
Field Artillery Group fired five unob- 
served TOT missions of twenty to forty 
rounds each north of Monte Altuzzo on 
what were presumably suspected reserve 
positions, assembly areas, and enemy 
batteries. At 1145 the 338th infantry 
requested TOT on the area north of 
Altuzzo's crest and along the highway 
300 yards northeast of the pass where 
counterattacking forces were thought to 
be forming or moving. Shortly after 
noon another battalion of the 178th Field 
Artillery Group fired two missions on 
enemy personnel between the crest of 
Monte Altuzzo and the Giogo Pass and 
in an area 500 yards northeast of the 
pass. Again the fire was unobserved. 

Other supporting units were also ac- 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



165 



tive. Beginning at 0800 all suspected 
mortar locations were brought under fire 
by the 85th Division's countermortar 
section, which included 4.2-inch mortars 
and artillery. As a result, the 338th and 
339th Infantry noted a considerable de- 
crease in enemy mortar fire. From 061 5 
to 1700 the 3d Platoon, Company B, 752d 
Tank Battalion, from positions 2,000 
yards northeast of Scarperia, fired ninety- 
two rounds of high explosive in the 
Altuzzo area. During the day the 1st 
Platoon, Company B, 84th Chemical 
Battalion, in support of the 1st Battalion, 
338th Infantry, fired twenty rounds of 
white phosphorus in the draw east of 
the Giogo Pass and on the slopes of Pian 
di Giogo. In direct support of the 338th 
Infantry, Company B, 310th Engineers, 
worked on supply and tank routes. One 
platoon with a bulldozer worked on a 
trail that supplied the 1st Battalion, 
338th, from Highway 6524 north of Pon- 
zalla over the lower slopes of di Castro 
Hill as far as Paretaio Farmhouse. 
Another engineer platoon cleared the 
road of mines from Scarperia to Ponzalla, 
and a third platoon worked on a bypass 
to a firing position for tanks west of the 
highway and about 1,100 yards south of 
Ponzalla. 57 

In support of the attack, fighter bomb- 
ers of the 239th RAF and 7th SAAF 
Wings of the Desert Air Force were active 
against enemy artillery and defended 
positions. The 239th RAF Wing flew 
four missions south and southwest of 



57 Memo, II Corps for divs and II Corps arty, 
14 Sep 44, 85th Div G-3 File, Sep 44; II Corps Arty 
Jnl, 14 Sep 44; 178th FA Gp Jnl and Mission Rpts, 
14 Sep 44; 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44; 752d Tk 
Bn Opns Rpt, Sep 44; 84th Cml Bn AAR and 
Jnl, Sep 44; 310th Engr (C) Bn AAR, Daily Sit 
Rpt, and Jnl, Sep 44; Combat Intervs with Jackson 
and Farber; 329th FA Bn AAR, Sep 44. 



Firenzuola, resulting in good concentra- 
tions and several direct hits which de- 
stroyed five buildings and caused a large 
explosion in a gun pit. The RAF 239th 
also bombed and strafed pits and diggings 
2,300 yards north-northwest of the pass 
and another area on the Firenzuola 
road. The 7th SAAF Wing bombed 
defended areas at Firenzuola and ex- 
ploded an ammunition dump and hit 
a German self-propelled gun and com- 
mand post at Collinaccia, two and one- 
half miles northeast of the Giogo Pass. 
At 1805 tactical aircraft bombed and 
strafed troops in woods and buildings two 
and three miles north of the pass. 58 

Plight of the Forward Platoons 

By midafternoon Company B, 338th 
Infantry, was hard pressed to hold on to 
its gains on Altuzzo's western ridge. 



(See Map 72.) At the end of the third 
enemy counterattack, the situation of the 
2d and 3d Platoons, which had reached 
advanced positions near the peak of the 
western ridge, was almost desperate. 
Not only was their stock of ammunition 
dangerously short, but the repeated 
enemy assaults had reduced morale to a 
low ebb and their combined fighting 
strength to about twenty-five men. It 
seemed the longed-for relief would never 
come, and rifle bullets continued to 
spatter the rocks and cause casualties. 
Seeing the deadly accuracy of the fire — 
no doubt influenced by the clear, hot 
weather that provided excellent obser- 
vation — many men felt they would not 
live through the day. As time dragged 
on, they talked freely of their situation, 

58 85th Div G-3 Jnl, 14 Sep 44; 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 
14 Sep 44; MAAF Daily Central Med Operational 
Sum, 14 Sep 44. 



166 



THREE BATTLES 



asking one another and wondering to 
themselves why help did not come. 
Nerves that had been on edge all day 
were now strained almost to the breaking 
point. Two privates cried out that they 
could not stand it any longer, but Sgt. 
Albert A. Lusk grabbed both men and 
kept them near him. 

Unless they received substantial rein- 
forcements and supplies of ammunition. 
Sergeant Lang knew his men could not 
withstand another assault. Although the 
radio was useless and no messengers had 
returned from their mission of making 
contact with the company commander, 
the 2d Platoon sergeant still hesitated to 
leave his men. Finally, with his patience 
exhausted and his mind made up that he 
could delay no longer, he decided that 
he himself must go down the hill to see 
the captain. He must either obtain men 
and ammunition or secure permission to 
withdraw the two platoons to less exposed 
positions. 

Since he wanted to be able to give the 
company commander the latest and most 
accurate information, Sergeant Lang 
ordered Sergeant Lusk to send a BAR 
man and a rifleman to the top of the peak. 
From there the men could observe enemy 
activity and note whether another coun- 
terattack was forming. As the two-man 
patrol moved up toward the peak, Ser- 
geant Lusk directed two riflemen to 
cover on the right flank and a BAR man 
on the left. If the patrol was fired on, it 
could withdraw between the cone of fire 
formed by the covering men. 

As soon as the BAR man of the patrol 
reached the peak, he stood upright, 
raised his gun to his shoulder and fired 
to the right down into the bowl. He had 
fired only two or three rounds when he 
was struck by automatic fire from the 



upper end of the main Altuzzo ridge. 
As he crumpled to the ground, the rifle- 
man, who had followed closely, looked 
up at the top of the peak but could detect 
no enemy movement. Hesitating only 
for a moment, he scrambled down and 
reported what had happened. 

Sergeant Lang Goes Down the Hill 

When the patrol failed to disclose 
German intentions, Sergeant Lang, as- 
suming that the enemy would be back 
again before long, told his men he was 
going down to the company commander. 
Assuring them he would be back within 
thirty minutes, he ordered them to hold 
until he returned. He left S. Sgt. John 
B. Spears, the senior squad leader, in 
command and started down the hill. 

For a while after Sergeant Lang left, 
the men of the 2d and 3d Platoons felt 
more at ease. From experience they 
knew that the platoon sergeant was a man 
of his word and would do everything 
possible to relieve them from their pre- 
carious position. But as time wore on 
the men became anxious. A half hour 
passed; then an hour. Still Sergeant 
Lang did not return. Anxiety turned to 
premonition and then to certainty that 
their acting platoon leader had been 
either wounded or killed. 

By this time the men seemed to them- 
selves to be in a hopeless position. Down 
to their last few clips of ammunition, they 
could only watch and duck while the 
German snipers on the ridges to the. east 
and west continued to pick men off. No 
one knew the whereabouts of the rest of 
the company. Each passing moment 
made them more certain that Sergeant 
Lang, whose courageous leadership had 
sustained them through the most hectic 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



167 



day of their lives, would not return. It 
was thus little wonder that all the men 
wanted to withdraw; they waited only 
for permission from someone in authority. 
Some did not wait silently for that but 
pleaded fervently with the senior non- 
commissioned officer, Sergeant Spears, to 
give the withdrawal order. 59 But neither 
Sergeant Spears nor the only other squad 
leader remaining, S. Sgt. William E. 
Ford, wanted to take the responsibility 
as long as Captain Peabody's and Ser- 
geant Lang's orders to remain continued 
in effect. 60 

Farther down the hill at the lower end 
of the 2d Platoon's positions, a handful 
of men did withdraw about twenty yards 
soon after Sergeant Lang had started 
down the hill. Apparently out of con- 
tact with the main group of the 2d and 
3d Platoons, these men started back be- 
cause their ammunition was nearly 
exhausted. Sergeant Mullins, among 
those who withdrew, had only two clips 
left, and others in the group had even 
less. As soon as the men reached the 
northern edge of the wooded area they 
met Sergeant Kelsey, acting 1st Platoon 
leader. "You men will have to go back," 
Sergeant Kelsey said. "We have orders 
to hold the hill and we will hold it." 
The men returned to their positions. 61 

When Sergeant Lang descended the 
hill, he found Captain Peabody beside 
a rock at the southern edge of the wooded 
area and reported to him the desperate 
plight of his men. As the platoon ser- 

59 Combat Intcrvs with Ford, Lusk, Mullins, Distel, 
Leon, Guy, Brodeur, Itzkowitz, and Seiverd. 

60 Combat Intervs with Ford and Guy. Guy's 
position was very close to Spears' foxhole. 

61 Combat Intervs with Mullins, Kelsey, and 
Dozier. Both Kelsey and Dozier confirmed the 
action as related herein but added certain details 
which the author was unable to substantiate. 



geant and the company commander lay 
stretched out on the ground, a rifle 
bullet struck Lang in the head, killing 
him instantly. 62 

Calling to Sergeant Kelsey, acting 1st 
Platoon leader, Captain Peabody in- 
structed him to take charge of all the men 
in the company's forward defense, in- 
cluding the 2d and 3d Platoons' advanced 
positions. When Sergeant Kelsey made 
his way through brush, trees, and rocks 
back to the northern edge of the wooded 
area, he ordered Sergeant Keathley, 1st 
Platoon guide, to take command of the 
2d and 3d Platoons. Sergeant Keathley 
started up the ridge. 63 

Fourth Counterattack 

Shortly after Keathley arrived at the 
rocks just a few yards below the 2d 
and 3d Platoon positions, the Germans 
launched another counterattack — their 
fourth and strongest. At the first sound 
of small arms fire and exploding grenades, 
Sergeant Keathley called down to the 
1st Platoon to send up reinforcements. 
Enemy mortar shells began to explode 
in the rocks around him, and the sergeant 
was forced to take cover in a slit trench 
with a 3d Platoon rifleman, Pvt. William 
B. Herndon. As the fight continued, an 
exploding mortar shell blew Private 
Herndon out of the hole, and another 
shell, or possibly a grenade, exploded 
against Sergeant Keathley's abdomen, 
almost blasting his intestines from his 
body. Dropping his rifle and pressing 
his side, the sergeant stumbled down the 

62 Combat Intervs with Kelsey-Dozier and Pea- 
body; 1st Bn, 338th Inf, AAR, Sep 44; Peabody MS. 
Sergeant Lang was posthumously awarded the Silver 
Star. 

63 Combat Intervs with Peabody, Kelsey, Collins, 
and Burrows. 



168 



THREE BATTLES 



hill to the last rock above the wooded 
area and fell into a slit trench. Seeing 
him fall, Sergeant Dozier came to him. 
Writhing in agony, the wounded sergeant 
panted a request that Sergeant Dozier 
remove his watch and send it back to his 
wife. A moment later he was dead. 64 

Farther up the hill the fourth counter- 
attack had hit the 2d and -3d Platoons 
hard. Physically and mentally exhaust- 
ed, the men were almost out of ammuni- 
tion and deprived of decisive leadership. 
Grenades and small arms fire landed close 
to their positions, and the men knew that 
a further stand was impossible. On the 
right flank and in the center, the attack 
seemed heaviest and at closest range. 
Soon after it began, Sergeant Spears, 
the ranking noncommissioned officer, 
called out to one of the other two squad 
leaders, Sergeant Ford: "If we don't pull 
off here, we're all going to get killed. 
The Jerries are overrunning our posi- 
tions." 65 He was going to withdraw, he 
shouted. Though no one heard Sergeant 
Spears give an actual order to withdraw, 
they did hear the shouting between the 
two sergeants. At that stage, the men 
needed no urging. When Sergeant 
Spears led the way, the men around him 
followed. 

While Sergeant Spears' squad peeled 
off from its positions and started down 
the hill, the other men higher up and on 
the left front followed suit, some spon- 
taneously and some at the orders of 
Sergeants Lusk and Ford. They formed 
a rough file that hurried down the moun- 



64 Combat Intervs with Mullins, Burrows, Kelsey- 
Dozier, and Collins. Collins' statement of Keathley's 
action was based on information given him by 
Herndon. Sergeant Keathley was posthumously 
awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. 

65 Combat Interv with Ford. 



tain on the west side of the ridge line. 
When they came to the third rock slab 
ledge from the peak, which ran straight 
across the crest of the ridge and faced 
downhill, they turned west and walked 
through occasional trees and bushes along 
the upper side of the rock, the high rock 
slab shielding them against machine gun 
fire from the south. No fire came from 
the slopes along the road or from the 
draw to the west. 

After moving west for approximately 
twenty-five yards along the upper side 
of the rock slab, the retreating men came 
to a place where the rock dropped off 
sharply. Since the rock at this point no 
longer shielded them from the south, the 
men stopped and bunched up at the 
opening, afraid to continue through it. 
As the machine gun fire from the south 
sounded ever closer, the Americans 
could see no way to get through the rock 
ledge without exposing themselves dan- 
gerously. The harsh sound of German 
voices floating up from the northwest 
added to the uneasiness. Having no 
idea that the 1st Platoon and their own 
company's machine guns were less than 
twenty-five yards away, the men were 
ready to believe the Germans had sur- 
rounded them. Some took off their 
ammunition belts and began to cry, 
"Kamerad." 

An assistant squad leader, Sergeant 
Seiverd, afraid that he would be captured 
and with him the 3d Platoon's mail, 
which he had stuffed in his shirt, stopped 
in the brush beside a tree near the ledge 
and covered the letters with dirt. Find- 
ing a few moments later that he had not 
buried them all, he covered the rest 
hastily with brush, hoping thereby to 
keep from the Germans any intelligence 
information the letters might contain. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



169 



When the three squad leaders, Ser- 
geants Lusk, Ford, and Spears, reached 
the opening in the rock slab, none of them 
tried to exercise firm control over the 
men, nor did they pause long at the 
opening. Braving the danger of fire 
from the south, they merely led the way, 
calling out that it was possible to get 
through and letting anyone follow who 
wished. No one knew how many men 
remained and were captured, but alto- 
gether there must have been about fifteen 
men in the group who went through 
the opening and withdrew safely. 66 

As fast as these men arrived at the 1st 
Platoon and Weapons Platoon positions, 
Sergeant Kelsey met them and began to 
place them in a new defense which Cap- 
tain Peabody ordered set up at the north 
edge of the wooded area. But before 
they could form a new line the German 
counterattack hit them again. Many of 
the Company B riflemen could not return 
the fire because their ammunition was 
gone; others had only a clip or two left. 
The most effective small arms fire came 
from Sergeant Mullins, Private Wilson, 
and Private Barrow, who had found 
several BAR magazines and kept the 
barrels of three automatic rifles hot with 
bullets. 

Despite the efforts of these men, the 
Germans, using hand grenades and rifle 
fire to good effect, overran a portion of 
the right flank. The other men heard 
cries of "Kamerad." Many thought at 
first the sound came from the Germans 
but soon saw that Company B men were 
surrendering. As the men who con- 
tinued to hold looked up the hill, they 
saw a column of about fifteen men file 
up the ridge through the rocks. In the 

** Combat Intervs with Seiverd and with Ford, 
Lusk, Distel, Guy, Itzkowitz, Leon, Wilson, 



lead was an American private holding a 
stick with a roll of white toilet tissue 
streaming from it. As the men surren- 
dered, Private Wilson, an automatic 
rifleman, wanted to fire on them, but 
Sergeant Simmons, a 1st Platoon squad 
leader, forbade it. Some of those sur- 
rendering might be wounded men, and, 
in any case, Sergeant Sime ons thought, 
the Germans would kill all the prisoners 
if the remaining Americans opened fire. 
Although someone yelled, "Put that 
G. . .D. . . flag down!" the cry went un- 
heeded. The prisoners continued to 
climb over the rock ledges toward the 
peak and finally disappeared from sight. 67 

Help from Artillery and Mortars 

Weakened by the capture of these men, 
especially by the collapse of the whole 
right flank, the rest of Company B was 
saved only by timely artillery and mortar 
fire. After the counterattack had begun, 
the forward observer of the 329th Field 
Artillery Battalion, 2d Lt. Joseph P. 
Lamb, who was with Captain Peabody, 
had radioed to the command post of the 
1st Battalion, 338th Infantry, reporting 
tersely, "Counterattack," and then had 
snapped off his radio. On the receiving 
end of the message Lieutenant Farber, 
artillery liaison officer, who had learned 
from Colonel Jackson earlier in the after- 
noon the correct location of Company B, 
called for fire on neighboring German po- 
sitions and the counterattacking forces. 68 

At 1650 two 155-mm. howitzer bat- 
talions of the 178th Field Artillery Group 



67 Combat Intervs with Kelsey-Dozier, Mullins, 
Ford, Seiverd, Burrows, Barrow, Simmons, Lusk, 
Campbell, Leon, Distel, Guy, Wilson, Itzkowitz, and 
Collins- West. 

68 Combat Interv with Farber. 



170 



THREE BATTLES 



fired a total of 184 rounds on the slopes 
between Hill 926 and the peak of the 
western ridge. In midafternoon the 
403d Field Artillery Battalion had fired 
a total of 141 rounds of harassing fire on 
enemy machine gun positions along the 
highway northwest of the western peak 
and on other suspected enemy positions 
generally north of Monte Altuzzo. Most 
of the missions by the 403d were unob- 
served, and their part, if any, in in- 
fluencing the local situation on the 
western ridge cannot be definitely de- 
termined. From the forward battalion 
observation post in front of the command 
post at Paretaio, 2d Lt. Robert P. 
McGraw of Company D had noticed the 
movement of the .enemy against Com- 
pany B and had directed 81 -mm. mortar 
fire in its support. Though the mortar 
and artillery shells landed dangerously 
close to Company B, none of the men 
were injured. Giving ground to the 
accurate and close-in fire, the Germans 
finally abandoned their fourth counter- 
attack." 

A few minutes later Captain Peabody 
reported to Colonel Jackson that Com- 
pany B had left only fifteen effective 
riflemen, two light machine gunners, and 
a platoon of heavy machine gunners. 
The report did not include the 1st Platoon 
riflemen or the mortar men below the 
barbed wire and the hump. The 1st 
Battalion commander ordered the com- 
pany to remain on the ridge until dark 
and then to withdraw to the battalion 
command post at Paretaio. By 1630 the 
regimental command post had received 
the report that Company B had been 

69 Combat Intervs with the following: Peabody, 
Clay, Kelsey; all enlisted survivors in Co B, 338th 
Inf; 1st Lt Robert P. McGraw. 403d FA Bn and 
178th FA Gp Mission Rpts, 14 Sep 44. 



counterattacked from three directions 
and was off the peak of Monte Altuzzo. 
Colonel Mikkelsen, 338th commander, 
still did not know Company B's exact 
location. 70 

When the fourth counterattack was 
over, Captain Peabody ordered what was 
left of his company to withdraw to the 
southern edge of the woods and build up 
a defensive position around the two com- 
pany D machine guns. Using a perim- 
eter defense, the company commander 
had the machine guns set up on either 
flank and the riflemen face up the ridge 
between them. On the left and right 
flanks of the guns the ammunition bearers 
of the Company D platoon stood guard, 
while on the rear another handful of 
Company B riflemen took over the same 
job. Other riflemen were assigned to 
cover the trail that crossed the ridge line 
south of the new defensive position. 

With the defense reorganized, Captain 
Peabody and 1st Lt. Roberts Clay, com- 
mander of the attached machine gun 
platoon, discussed withdrawal to the 
Company B command post below the 
barbed wire. The memory of the cap- 
ture of the fifteen men still fresh in their 
minds, both officers recognized the neces- 
sity for controlling the movement strictly. 
They planned for the riflemen to infiltrate 
across the open space at the barbed wire 
while the machine guns covered the 
crossing. To screen the movement the 
company commander asked battalion to 
place smoke at the head of the draws to 
the northeast and northwest of Company 
B's position. The first rifleman started 
off and, although fired on by a sniper, 



70 Combat Intervs with Jackson and Peabody; 
Peabody MS; 1st Bn, 338th Inf, Rpt of Opns, Sep 
44; 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



171 



safely reached the southern edge of the 
wire. Other riflemen followed. 

The withdrawal was still in its initial 
stages when a German rifleman opened 
fire from the left front near a bend in the 
highway. When Lieutenant Clay, the 
machine gun platoon leader, failed in 
pointing out the German position by 
rifle fire, he grabbed the left machine gun 
himself and began to fire it. Although 
the tracers kicked up dirt all around the 
sharpshooter, they all missed the mark. 
As soon as the platoon leader would 
cease firing, the German would resume 
fire at anyone who tried to edge across 
the open space at the barbed wire. Only 
a handful of Company B men and none 
of Company D had managed to filter 
through the wire. Some were still north 
of the entanglement when Captain Pea- 
body decided to abandon the attempt to 
withdraw until after dark. When night 
did come, the remainder of the company 
and the attached platoon were at last 
able to withdraw. 

Before all the men had reached the 
CP area, they came under misplaced 
American artillery fire. Captain Pea- 
body radioed Colonel Jackson, who at 
1900 telephoned the 2d Battalion that 
artillery fire which was being used to stop 
a counterattack against Company E was 
falling short on Company B. The fire 
was promptly raised. 

As Company B prepared to continue 
its withdrawal from the western ridge, 
Private Bertani, 3d Platoon aid man, with 
the assistance of several other men, impro- 
vised two litters from blankets stretched 
between rifles with fixed bayonets. Two 
nonambulatory wounded men were 
placed on them, but Peabody decided 
that their evacuation with the rest of 
Company B would hamper the with- 



drawal. He ordered that the wounded 
be left there until litterbearers could be 
sent back from the battalion aid station. 
Pvt. Charles C. Smith, one of the 
wounded men, guessed what was hap- 
pening. "You're going to leave me here, 
aren't you?" he asked. Private Bertani 
could only assure him that litterbearers 
would return soon to complete the 
evacuation. 

After reorganization was completed, 
Company B and its attached machine 
guns moved off in a column of twos 
through the darkness. Utterly fatigued, 
but relieved from the tension that had 
gripped them all day, the men walked 
directly down the ridge through la Rocca 
draw and up the slopes along the high- 
way, arriving at the 1st Battalion com- 
mand post at Paretaio after a three-hour 
march. There the men were fed ham- 
burgers and hot coffee and sent to the 
slopes south of the farmhouse, while 
litterbearers evacuated the wounded who 
had been left on the ridge. 71 

The Day's Action 

For the second day the 1st Battalion, 
338th Infantry, had failed to breach the 
enemy's main line of resistance on Monte 
Altuzzo. Instead of the co-ordinated 
assault which Colonel Jackson had 
planned, Companies A and B had made 
separate attacks on the main ridge and 
the western ridge of the mountain. 
Major factors in the outcome were the 
failure of Company A's radio and Cap- 
tain Peabody's mistake in judging his 



71 This section is based on the following: Peabody 
MS; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44; Combat 
Intervs with Clay, Bertani, and all enlisted survivors 
of the action still in Co B, 338th Inf. Direct quotes 
are from Clay and Bertani, 



172 



THREE BATTLES 




PEABODY PEAK looking to the south. Dust from Highway 6524 can be seen in background. 
Photograph was taken 22 September 1944. 

location. Despite its lack of communica- 
tion with the battalion and with Company 
B, Company A had at least jumped off 
at dawn toward the peak of Hill 782, but 
after a brisk fire fight and a short advance 
the two leading platoons had drawn back 
to their starting positions. Notwith- 
standing repeated efforts to restore com- 
munication, the company had remained 
out of touch with the battalion com- 
mander until midafternoon and knew 
nothing about Company B's plight on 
the ridge to the west. 

During the day-long battle, Captain 
Peabody's men had penetrated the main 



line of resistance on the western ridge but 
had not occupied the main bunkers on 
the peak. Since they had not consoli- 
dated their gains, the attack was abortive. 
The company's flanks had been exposed 
continuously, because the units on its 
right and left were too far away to be of 
assistance or were out of contact. The 
only tangible gain from Company B's 
attack was the development for the first 
time of the strong enemy defense on 
Altuzzo's western peak. 

By the end of the day Company B 
could not have held its gains without 
reinforcement, for the day's casualties 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



173 



had sharply reduced its fighting power. 
Out of its strength at the jump-off of 
about 170 men, it had suffered ninety-six 
casualties including twenty-four killed, 
fifty-three wounded, and nineteen cap- 
tured or missing in action. 72 Even the 
survivors were in no condition to continue 
the battle or stand another harrowing day 
like 14 September. Under the circum- 
stances Colonel Jackson had no choice 
but to withdraw Company B and renew 
the attack against Monte Altuzzo with 
fresh troops. To the men who had 
fought there so hard, the western ridge 
came to be known as Peabody Peak. 73 

While Company B had been making its 
heroic but futile effort near the peak of 
Altuzzo's western ridge, the units on its 
flanks likewise failed to break through 
the enemy's defenses. On the 338th 
Infantry's left wing the 2d Battalion 
made isolated advances along the high- 
way but in every case gave up the ground 
and at the end of the day found itself 
back at its old positions near I'Uomo 
Morto. 74 On the 338th Infantry's left 
flank the 91st Division's 363d Infantry 
had attacked up the western slopes of 
Monticelli out had been stopped short 
of the enemy's main line of resistance. 
East of Monte Altuzzo the 339th Infantry 
of the 85th Division still was unable to 
take Monte Verruca despite extensive use 
of artillery, tanks, and tank destroyers. 75 
In front of the Giogo Pass the troops of 
II Corps had failed everywhere on 14 
September to breach the enemy's MLR 

« Co B, 338th Inf, Morning Rpt, 14 Sep 44, in 1st 
Bn, 338th Inf, S-l Files, Sep 44. 

73 Combat Intervs with Jackson. 

74 Combat Interv with Cole; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, 
Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, AAR, Sep 44. 

75 91st Div G-3 Jnl, 14 Sep 44; 339th Inf Unit 
Jnl, 14 Sep 44; 339th Inf AAR, Sep 44; Strootman 
MS. 



and take the objectives which would 
outflank the Futa Pass. 

The Enemy Situation 

By the morning of 14 September the 
German forces on Monte Altuzzo were 
numerically stronger than they had been 
the day before. During the night (13-14 
September) the 1st Company, 4th Antitank 
Battalion (K'ampfgruppe Hauser), with a 
total strength of between 90 and 150 
men, was sent to reinforce elements of 
the ht Battalion, 72th Regiment, 4th Para- 
chute Division. Although these men sus- 
tained some casualties while moving into 
position, most of them arrived in Altuzzo's 
forward bunkers and were attached 
either as individuals to the 1st Company 
or as a separate unit under the regiment. 
Initially forty-two men from the 4th 
Antitank Battalion were committed on the 
east flank of the 1st Company, 12th Para- 
chute Regiment, but casualties reduced the 
number of effectives to twenty-five. 
Though originally armed with 75-mm. 
assault (antitank) guns, the company had 
only its complement of ten machine guns 
for its Altuzzo defense. 

Besides these reinforcements, the enemy 
had at least three understrength com- 
panies of the 12th Parachute Regiment in 
the vicinity of Monte Altuzzo: the 1st 
Company with forty-four men and the 3d 
and 11th Companies with fifty to sixty men 
each. The enemy's MLR on Altuzzo 
was manned by 250 to 300 men in all — 
numerically the equivalent of one under- 
strength German battalion or one and 
one-half companies of American infantry. 
Because of the terrain, poor communica- 
tions, and lack of control, at no single 
time during the five-day battle did the 
Americans throw as many troops into 



174 



THREE BATTLES 



action on Monte Altuzzo as did the 
defenders. 

By noon of 14 September American 
intelligence reports indicated that the 1st 
Battalion, 12th Regiment, plus reinforce- 
ments, was on Monte Altuzzo, the 2d 
Battalion extended east from Monte 
Verruca, and the 3d Battalion was on 
Monticelli. Even at this point every 
battalion of the 12th Regiment plus the 3d 
Battalion'?, reserve had been committed, 
although the enemy still maintained a 
mobile reserve counterattack force of 
combat engineers. Though forced to 
bring up various noninfantry units for 
reinforcement, the local German com- 
manders had decided to hold Monte 
Altuzzo and the mountains on the east 
and west of the Giogo Pass with all the 
strength they could muster. 

During the day civilian and prisoner 
reports and air observation located many 
enemy weapons which were supporting 
the German infantry in the Giogo Pass 
sector. In the afternoon a Mark IV 
tank with a short 75-mm. gun was re- 
ported 200 yards north of the pass. It 
may have been the same tank that Com- 
pany B, 338th Infantry, tried unsuccess- 
fully to knock out during the morning 
with a bazooka. At 1430 eight artillery 
pieces in position at Barco less than a mile 
north of the pass moved two miles north 
up the Firenzuola highway to a cluster 
of houses at Molinuccio. Three bat- 
teries (twelve guns) of 150-mm. caliber 
were at Corniolo three miles northwest 
of the pass. In addition, the 12th Para- 
chute Regiment was supported by two 
170-mm. guns from the Artillery Lehr 
Regiment in position about 700 yards west 
of Firenzuola. The enemy fired only a 
small amount of artillery into the 85th 
Division area on 1 4 September, but most 



of that received, mainly 88-mm. and 
170-mm., was directed against the 338th 
Infantry. 

The main enemy effort on Monte 
Altuzzo during 1 4 September was directed 
toward dislodgment of Company B from 
the rocky western ridge. Besides heavy 
machine gun cross fire from both flanks, 
the enemy struck with counterattack 
forces from behind rocks and over the 
most covered approaches. After the 
first counterattack between 1000 and 
1100, the 12th Parachute Regiment reported 
that Monte Altuzzo was again in its 
hands. At 1150 the 1st Battalion, 12th 
Regiment, was ordered to reassign strength 
along the MLR and commit all reserves. 
That the other three German counter- 
attacks of the afternoon cost it heavily 
is attested to by the 1st Battalion's later 
report that it unconditionally needed a 
reserve company. Among those killed 
was the commanding officer of the 1st 
Company, 12th Regiment. 

During the night of 14-15 September 
a squad of German engineers laid mines 
facing the 1st Battalion, 338th Infantry, 
on Monte Altuzzo and the 339th Infantry 
on Monte Verruca. On the main Al- 
tuzzo ridge S-mines were laid in the 
barbed wire on the southwest slopes of 
Hill 782, but the mission was carried out 
only partially — the mines neither were 
numerous enough nor covered an area 
large enough to slow subsequent advance. 

Although prisoner statements indicated 
that the highway from the Giogo Pass to 
Firenzuola had been knocked out by 
American bombers, on the afternoon of 
14 September the enemy was reported to 
have that main supply route open. 
Thereupon the 85th Division asked II 
Corps to put the road out by bombing, 
and II Corps approved the request, 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



175 



adding that if air power could not knock 
it out harassing artillery fire would be 
placed on it. Evidently one or the other 
was effective, for the enemy's front-line 
positions did not obtain rations on 14 
September. At 2300 that night TOT 
artillery fire was placed on the knob 
north of Monte Altuzzo's crest. 76 

At the end of 14 September the Four- 
teenth Army was well aware that the 4th 
Parachute Division was bearing the brunt 
of the Fifth Army attack against the 
Gothic Line. But in light of Fourteenth 
Army reports the enemy had clearly not 
realized that Fifth Army's main effort 
was restricted to the Giogo Pass area. 
The reports indicated that the main 
effort was on a nine-mile front from 

76 Foregoing information on the enemy situation 
is based on IPW Rpts, radio intercepts, and other 
intel info in 338th Inf Unit Jnl and 85th Div G-2 
Jnl, 14 Sep 44, and in 85th Div G-2 Rpts, 14-18 
Sep 44; Intel Sums and IPW Rpts in 338th Inf Jnl 
Files, Sep 44. 



Monte Frassino southwest of the Futa 
Pass to Monte Altuzzo. The pressure 
along the whole II Corps front was such 
that the Germans still had not divined 
Fifth Army's plan of outflanking the Futa 
Pass by breaching the Gothic Line at the 
Giogo Pass. 

Because of the anticipated withdrawal 
of the west flank of the German Tenth 
Army, the / Parachute Corps was told during 
the day to prepare for withdrawal of its 
east flank to the crest of Monte Altuzzo. 
For reinforcement of the 4th Parachute 
Division, the 2d Battalion, Grenadier Lehr 
Brigade, which had been in / Parachute 
Corps reserve, was entrucked the night of 
14-15 September. Preparations were 
made also to send the 1st Battalion, Grena- 
dier Lehr Brigade, which had been in XIV 
Panzer Corps reserve, to the 4th Parachute 
Division the following night. 77 



77 Entry of 14 Sep 44, Fourteenth Army KTB 4. 



CHAPTER III 



Shellfire and a False Message 

(15 September) 



After the attempts of 14 September had 
failed to break through the Gothic Line, 
elements of II Corps prepared again to 
assault the high ground on either side 
of the Giogo Pass. Instead of attempting 
another simultaneous effort along the 
whole front, individual units of the 85th 
and 91st Divisions planned to attack at 
different times the night of 14 September 
and the early morning of 15 September. 
On II Corps' right wing the 339th Infan- 
try (85th Division) was to attack at 
midnight on 14 September to take Monte 
Verruca. The next morning at 0900 
the 338th Infantry was to attack to take 
the crest of Monte Altuzzo and to ad- 
vance astride Highway 6524 toward the 
Giogo Pass. West of the highway the 
363d and 361st Infantry (91st Division) 
were to try again at 0500 to seize Monti- 
celli and Hill 844 to the west. 1 

The 13-14 September attacks had 
demonstrated the enemy's intentions to 
defend Monte Altuzzo firmly and had 
dealt heavy casualties to Company B, 
prompting Colonel Mikkelsen, 338th 
commander, to consider dropping the 1st 
Battalion into reserve and using the fresh 
3d Battalion to attack through the lst's 
positions. When this proposal was pre- 
sented to Colonel Jackson, the 1st Bat- 

1 338th Inf and 339th Inf Unit Jnls, 14-15 Sep 44; 
85th Div and 91st Div G-3 Jnls, 14-15 Sep 44; 
Strootman MS, Ch. Ill; Muller Notes. 



talion commander, he argued against it. 
Colonel Jackson well recognized that 
Company B was no longer an effective 
fighting force, but he was equally aware 
of the fact that his A and C Companies 
were in good condition. Company A 
had sustained only a few casualties in 
developing the Altuzzo defenses, and 
Company C had not yet been committed. 
Jackson insisted therefore that his bat- 
talion could and would take Monte 
Altuzzo the next day. Yielding, Colonel 
Mikkelsen gave the order to try again, 
this time with Companies A and C. As 
soon as the two companies should reach 
Hill 926, the 3d Battalion was then to 
pass through and the 1st to drop into 
reserve. 2 Resupply of rations and am- 
munition from the regimental distribu- 
tion point at Scarperia was to continue 
to be made by jeep to the slopes behind 
Paretaio Farmhouse. 

Preparations for Attack 

Because study through field glasses and 
conversation with Captain King had 
shown that the main Altuzzo ridge was 
too narrow to accommodate more than 
two platoons initially, the 1st Battalion 

2 Combat Intervs with Mikkelsen, Lt Col Marion 
P. Boulden, and Jackson. Colonel Jackson did not 
recall this incident but thought it entirely possible 
that he had taken the position herein described. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



177 




COMMAND POST AT PARETAIO FARMHOUSE. In this 1st Battalion, 338th 
Infantry, CP, the man on left using telephone is 1st Lt. Roberts Clay, Company D, 1st Battalion, 
338th Infantry; next to him, in foreground is 1st Lt. William H. Alston, Jr., 1st Battalion S-2; 
2d Lt. Joseph P. Lamb can be seen on extreme right, and next to him, using the telephone, is 
1st Lt. Dawson L. Farber, Jr., both of the 329th Field Artillery Battalion. In the back- 
ground, second man from left, bending over the table is Cpl. Mark Kolesar of the 329th. The 
other two men are not identified. 



commander decided that one platoon 
each from Companies A and C would 
attack abreast up the main ridge from 
Hill 782. The other platoons of each 
company would follow bounds. Be- 
ginning at H Hour, 500 smoke rounds 
from 105-mm. howitzers would screen 
the movement for about one hour. 3 



3 Combat Intervs with Jackson and Farber. 



For half an hour before the infantry 
attack, mortars and light, medium, and 
heavy artillery were to soften up the 
entire mountain position. For the heavy 
240-mm. howitzers and 8-inch guns, 
which were most effective against the 
prepared defenses of the Gothic Line, 
II Corps had given the 85th Division 
priority in fire and a large ammunition 
allotment. Cannon Company, 338th, 



178 



THREE BATTLES 



was assigned harassing missions in the 
area behind Hill 926, and the 81 -mm. 
mortars of Company D, 338th, and the 
4.2-inch mortars of the 84th Chemical 
Battalion were to fire on targets west of 
Altuzzo's western ridge and east of the 
main ridge which could not be reached 
by artillery fire. Two machine guns of 
Company D were to support the attack 
from Hill 624. After the preparatory 
barrage, all artillery concentrations were 
to be fired on call. 4 

At dawn tanks and tank destroyers 
were to strike at those pillboxes which 
had been located on the two ridges of the 
mountain. During the night of 14-15 
September one tank from Company B, 
752d Tank Battalion, was dug in and 
camouflaged in the vicinity of Hill 360, 
1,500 yards south-southwest of the lower 
end of the main Altuzzo ridge. Although 
two other tanks were earmarked for use 
near the Paretaio Farmhouse, the tank 
liaison officer found later that tanks 
could not move into the planned posi- 
tions. At 0430, 15 September, the 1st 
Platoon, Company B, 805th Tank De- 
stroyer Battalion (Self-Propelled), was 
attached to Company B, 752d Tank 
Battalion. To assist the tanks in firing 
on pillboxes and targets of opportunity, 
the tank destroyers moved at 0845 up 
Highway 6524 more than a mile beyond 
Scarperia and took positions just north 
of Montagnana, 4,200 yards southwest 
of Monte Altuzzo's crest. 

During the night artillery fire was 
placed on the crest of Monte Altuzzo 
every fifteen minutes. At 2300 artillery 
fired TOT on the north hump, Knob 3, 

i Ibid.; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, Unit Jnl, 14-15 Sep 44; 
338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14-15 Sep 44;II Corps Arty Jnl, 
14-15 Sep 44; 403d FA Bn Mission Rpts, 14-15 Sep 
44; 752d Tic Bn and 805th TD Bn AAR's, Sep 44, 



north of the peak of Monte Altuzzo; and 
the 403d Field Artillery Battalion let 
loose a TOT on an area just south of the 
Giogo Pass and at Bagnolo, one mile 
north of the pass. Every fifteen minutes 
during the night the 403d put harassing 
fire around the pass, along the highway 
north and south of it, and on Hill 926. 
From 0400 to 0600 three guns fired each 
mission every fifteen minutes and walked 
up and down the Firenzuola highway for 
two miles north of the pass. 

Although the 338th Infantry requested 
a number of bombing missions, poor visi- 
bility forced postponement. Through- 
out the day bad weather was to prevent 
flying of most bomber missions on the 
entire Fifth Army front. 5 

As soon as attack plans were completed, 
the 1st Battalion commander gave the 
warning order to the Company A com- 
mander, Captain King, and the Com- 
pany C commander, 1st Lt. Redding C. 
Souder, Jr., and described the formation 
and supporting fires to be used. Specify- 
ing that the two companies maintain 
physical contact, he left the company 
commanders to work out their own 
boundaries and exact routes of advance. 6 

After the briefing, Captain King and 
Lieutenant Souder, each without the 
other's knowledge, apparently came to 
different views regarding the nature and 
probable outcome of the attack. Anx- 
ious to push all the way up the main 
Altuzzo ridge, Captain King understood 
his mission to be the capture of Hill 926. 
This time, he was sure, his men would 
break through the enemy's main line of 



6 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14-15 Sep 44; 85th Div G-3 
Jnl, 14-15 Sep 44; MATAF Intel and Opns Sum, 15 
Sep 44; MAAF Central Med Daily Operational Sum, 
15 Sep 44. 

6 Combat Intervs with Jackson, King, and Souder. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



179 



resistance. Lieutenant Souder, on the 
other hand, looked upon the attack more 
as a developing movement. He under- 
stood that Hill 926 was the assigned 
objective but anticipated that the two 
companies would go only as far as they 
could without sustaining heavy casual- 
ties. Having heard that Company B 
had suffered heavily the day before, he 
was far from sanguine about the possi- 
bilities of another attack. He doubted 
that his men could reach the peak and 
certainly did not believe they were being 
called upon for an all-out effort. 7 

Captain King ordered that Company 
A attack in a column of platoons, the 2d 
Platoon leading, followed in order by the 
light machine gun section, the 1st Pla- 
toon, and the 3d Platoon. For Company 
C Lieutenant Souder directed the 1st 
Platoon to lead, the 2d Platoon and the 
light machine gun section to follow, and 
the 3d Platoon to bring up the rear. 
During his conferences with his platoon 
leaders, each company commander, in 
some measure at least, must have passed 
on to his officers his own feelings about 
the impending action, for the two platoon 
leaders, Lieutenant Gresham and 1st Lt. 
William S. Corey, who were to lead the 
Company A and C formations, respec- 
tively, reflected the opinion of their 
company commanders. Aggressive and 
self-confident, Gresham felt sure he could 
take Monte Altuzzo the next morning. 
The more cautious Corey was skeptical 
about the possibility of success. 8 

Company A was resupplied during the 
night with water, K rations, and ammu- 
nition. The only shortage remaining 

7 Combat Intervs with King, Gresham, and 
Souder. 

8 Ibid.; Combat Intervs with Corey and with 1st 
Lt David M. Brumbaugh. 



was in hand grenades. Some had been 
dropped on the way by men who wanted 
to lighten their loads, or had been lost 
during the attacks of the first two days. 
There had been no resupply. Shortly 
after dark Captain King sent a small 
patrol beyond the barbed wire to the 
ridge line of Hill 782, and the patrol 
reported considerable enemy movement. 9 
Company C started forward at ap- 
proximately 0300 from its positions on 
the southwest slope of Hill 624. (Map 
73)| Following the upper trail that 
wound along the slopes to the north, the 
company stopped just before dawn near 
the first finger on the southwest slope of 
Hill 782, about 150 yards to the right 
rear of Company A. There Company 
C established contact with Company A 
and strung telephone wire between the 
two command posts. Captain King and 
Lieutenant Souder arranged that the 
leading platoon of Company C would 
advance up the slope ahead and move 
to the left until it came abreast of the 
leading platoon of Company A at the 
rocks fifty yards below the peak of Hill 
782. 

From Hill 624 the men of Company C 
had brought with them ammunition, 
water, and rations for the next day. 
Each man still had one belt and one 
bandoleer of .30-caliber ammunition but 
like the men of Company A lacked a full 
supply of hand grenades. The leading 
platoons of both companies were four or 
five men short of full strength. In 
Company C's 2d Platoon, which was to 
follow its 1st Platoon, the effectives were 
reduced by the evacuation of five nervous 
exhaustion cases as H Hour approached. 

9 Combat Intervs with Van Home, King, and 
enlisted survivors in Co A, 338th Inf, and Gresham; 
338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14-15 Sep 44. 




MAP 13 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



181 



While the 1st Battalion made its last- 
minute preparations to attack, the 3d 
Battalion, 338th Infantry, in reserve, 
moved to Hill 624 from Lutiano southeast 
of Paretaio Farmhouse. From this posi- 
tion the 3d Battalion was to follow Com- 
panies A and C closely and pass through 
them after capture of Hill 926. Com- 
panies K and L, each with one machine 
gun platoon of Company M attached, 
reached Hill 624 at 0600, made contact 
with the rear elements of Company C, 
and learned the route of advance. Com- 
pany I, in 3d Battalion reserve, and the 
mortar platoon of Company M remained 
near Lutiano. 

After daylight, the two company com- 
manders and platoon leaders of the 1st 
battalion assault force issued final in- 
structions. Lieutenant Corey, who was 
to lead Company C's 1st Platoon, told his 
men to move up to the ridge line, then 
swing to the left and go north a few yards 
until contact was made with Company 
A's leading 2d Platoon. The movement 
would be slow, Lieutenant Corey warned, 
because the location of the enemy was 
not known. Having never seen the 
terrain ahead except at a distance, the 
lieutenant had no idea that the ridge line 
was as narrow as it actually was. 10 

Gresham and Corey Move Forward 

Anxious to have his Company A 
assault platoon at the rocks above the 
barbed wire at 0900, when he was 
scheduled to meet the leading platoon of 
Company C, Lieutenant Gresham di- 



10 Combat Intervs with the following: Gresham- 
Stevens; Michalek-Carter-Wilson-Hillier; Sgt Tony 
L. White; Souder, Thompson, and Corey. 3d Bn, 
338th Inf, Unit Jnl, 14-15 Sep 44; 1st Bn and 3d Bn, 
338th Inf, AAR's, and 338th Inf AAR, Sep 44. 



rected his men to move out in single file 
at 0830 from their positions on the large 
finger of Hill 782. The 3d Squad was 
in the lead, followed by platoon head- 
quarters, the 2d Squad, and the 1st 
Squad. 

Stepping over the low-strung barbed 
wire, the men came upon the dugout 
that Sergeant Van Home had knocked 
out the afternoon of 13 September. It 
was now unoccupied. Continuing past 
the position, they reached the rocks just 
below the peak of Hill 782 about 0850. 
Although they had looked for Company 
C's 1st Platoon, it had been hidden from 
them by the steep, uneven slope to their 
right. After a five-minute wait at the 
rocks, Lieutenant Gresham saw several 
men of Company C approaching up the 
hill from his right rear. 11 

Approximately seventy-five yards to 
the right of Company A's 2d Platoon, the 
1st Platoon of Company C had moved 
out about the same time from the trail 
on the southwest slope of Hill 782. In 
a column of squads — the 1st, 2d, and 3d, 
in that order — the men walked up the 
ridge in an open squad column and 
stepped across the low-strung barbed 
wire. Past the wire the leading squad 
found unmanned enemy emplacements 
reinforced with logs and covered with 
dirt. On the way up the hill, the 1st 
Squad, which was supposed to maintain 
visual contact with Company A, could 
see Lieutenant Gresham's men occasion- 
ally, but most of the time the slope hid 
them from view. As the head of the 
column came within twenty yards of the 
ridge line, the 1st Squad leader, S. Sgt. 
James O. Orr, stopped his squad and told 
his two scouts, Pfc. Lawrence F. Markey, 

11 Combat Intervs with Gresham, Stevens, and 
Carter- Wilson-Hillier. 



182 



THREE BATTLES 




TAKING A BREAK. These men of the 338th Infantry are taking a brief rest on the 
slopes near their CP. Note the supply of 60- and 81-mm. mortar shells in center. 



Jr., and Pfc. Willie Burnett, to recon- 
noiter. Reaching the crest and peering 
over the ridge line, the scouts noted only 
a sheer drop just beyond it on the eastern 
slope of Hill 782 and several German 
positions on the next mountain to the 
east, Monte Verruca. 

By this time Sergeant Orr had noticed 
the 2d Platoon of Company A on his left 
flank. The Company A platoon seemed 
to be too high on the ridge to permit 
Company C's platoon to swing left, move 
abreast, and proceed north up the moun- 
tain without walking on the ridge line 



exposed to heavy flanking fire from 
Monte Verruca. At the report of visual 
contact Lieutenant Corey directed his 1st 
Squad to move on to Company A's 2d 
Platoon at the rocks, and in a few minutes 
Sergeant Orr made contact with Lieu- 
tenant Gresham. 12 

The preliminary artillery barrage, 
which had begun at 0830, was now in full 
swing. Every few minutes the 8-inch and 
240-mm. shells, designed to knock out en- 
emy pillboxes, were landing on the higher 



12 Combat Intervs with Orr and with Gresham. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



183 



slopes of Monte Altuzzo. Wherever 
the heavy projectiles hit, they sent up 
a mingled mass of smoke, dirt, and 
rubble and rocked the ground around 
the men of the 1st Battalion, scarcely 300 
yards away. At 0855 the 338th Infantry 
reported that a 240-mm. howitzer had 
neutralized one pillbox on Hill 926. 
From 0815 to 0930 the 403d Field Artil- 
lery Battalion fired harassing missions of 
twenty to thirty rounds each every 
twenty minutes on the upper slopes of 
Monte Verruca and the slopes to the 
north. Beginning at 0830 this 155-mm. 
howitzer battalion placed harassing fire 
every five minutes on Hill 926 and from 
0925 to 0950 on the northern slopes of 
Monte Altuzzo near the pass and along 
the highway just south of the pass. Be- 
fore the attack jumped off, tanks and 
tank destroyers, despite a delay in getting 
into position, fired on fifteen pillboxes in 
the Altuzzo area. 13 

Wishing to make the most of the 
barrage while it lasted, Lieutenant 
Gresham decided not to wait for Lieu- 
tenant Corey and the rest of Corey's pla- 
toon. The Company A platoon leader 
wanted to take his men up the ridge while 
the artillery still pinned the enemy to his 
holes and pillboxes, and for fifty yards 
ahead there was an area in which his 
platoon could move in some concealment 
through the rocks to the peak of Hill 782. 
Directing his men to move out, Lieuten- 
ant Gresham told Sergeant Orr to ask 
that Lieutenant Corey have the 1st Squad 
of the Company C platoon follow Com- 
pany A's 2d Platoon until it halted. 

Using a leapfrog system, Lieutenant 

13 Combat Intervs with Farber, Gresham, and 
Jackson; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, Unit Jnl and 338th Inf 
Unit Jnl, 15 Sep 44; 403d FA Bn Mission Rpts, 
15 Sep 44; 752d Tk Bn and 805th TD Bn AAR's, 
Sep 44. 



Gresham's platoon moved slowly through 
the rocks. As the leading squad ad- 
vanced, the other two rifle squads and 
one machine gun squad of the Weapons 
Platoon covered until a designated bound 
was reached. The covering squads then 
displaced forward. Behind the machine 
gun squad came Sergeant Orr's squad 
of Company C and, within visual con- 
tact, the rest of the Company C platoon. 
Supported by the artillery fire the leading 
men reached the peak of Hill 782 without 
difficulty. There the two platoon leaders 
joined forces. 

Corey and Gresham noted the sheer 
drop of the eastern slope and agreed that 
the ridge ahead of them was too narrow 
for two platoons to move abreast. They 
decided that Lieutenant Gresham's 2d 
Platoon, Company A, would lead the 
way, single file, followed by Lieutenant 
Corey's 1st Platoon, Company C. 14 As 
the 2d Platoon started forward from the 
rocks on the peak of Hill 782, smoke shells 
began to land on the ridge ahead and in 
the draw to the west. Although the first 
shells fell too far to the left, Lieutenant 
Gresham was able to adjust the fire of 
the 105-mm. howitzers. In the heavy 
morning air the smoke clung to the 
ground like gas. At 0930 the 329th 
Field Artillery Battalion reported that 
smoke on Monte Altuzzo was good and 
should be continued. While it did not 
prevent the attackers from seeing one 
another or the route of advance for a few 
yards ahead, the smoke did severely limit 
German observation. 

Fire at Knobs 1 and 2 

After moving under the smoke screen 
about seventy-five yards beyond Hill 782 

14 Combat Intervs with Gresham, Orr, and Corey. 



184 



THREE BATTLES 



to another little rise on the ridge line, 
Knob 1, the 2d Platoon of Company A 
was hit by enemy fire for the first time. 
It came from a position about a hundred 
yards away on the left flank to the west 
of the ridge line. Pfc. Joseph Farino 
returned the fire, and the platoon leader 
himself sent a few rounds from his carbine 
in the same direction. The enemy fire 
ceased, and Lieutenant Gresham directed 
the 1st Squad, which was second in the 
column, to take the lead and continue 
forward. 

As soon as the 1st Squad started off it 
came under close-in fire from the front. 
The squad leader, Pfc. Ray C. Collins, 
sent two men out to his left to sneak up 
on the Germans from the rear. When 
the two men found an enemy machine 
gun, one covered while the other threw 
a hand grenade, rushed the position, and 
shot the single German he found inside. 

The enemy fire and the discovery of 
the machine gun position led Lieutenant 
Gresham to believe that his men had 
struck the main line of resistance. Know- 
ing that his left flank was exposed, he 
halted, passed word back for Lieutenant 
Corey to come forward, and reported 
what had happened to Captain King. 
The Company A commander, who had 
moved above the barbed wire beyond the 
dugout just below the rocks on Hill 782, 
kept urging the lieutenant to "Go ahead! 
Go ahead!" It seemed safe enough, for 
the smoke still hung heavily over the 
battlefield on the front and left flank. 15 

Heeding Captain King's urging, Lieu- 
tenant Gresham ordered his 2d Squad 
leader, Sergeant Wilson, to move his men 
through the leading 1st Squad. Walking 

15 338th Inf Unit Jnl, Sep 44; Combat Intervs with 
Gresham, Jackson, Hillier, and King. Quotes are 
from Gresham and King. 



in an open squad column toward the next 
bound, a rock formation on the next rise 
in the ridge line, Knob 2, the squad had 
gone only a few yards up the forward 
slope of the second knob when machine 
guns and rifles opened fire from the left 
flank and front. On the front the enemy 
positions were in the rocks squarely on 
the ridge line approximately thirty yards 
ahead of Sergeant Wilson's squad. 

These positions at Knob 2, located 
about 250 yards north of Hill 782 and 300 
yards south of Monte Altuzzo's crest, 
comprised the east anchor of the German 
lines. Most were placed on or a few 
yards west of the ridge line. The first 
was a fourteen-foot-wide, zigzag trench 
without overhead cover about five feet 
below the ridge line, providing vantage 
points from which riflemen or machine 
gunners could fire down the ridge line or 
into the bowl. A few yards north of the 
trench and to its right rear on the ridge 
line was a large rectangular hole, ten 
feet deep, eight feet wide, and twelve feet 
long, which had been blasted from solid 
rock but had no overhead cover. It 
could be used easily as a light mortar 
position and could give concealment to a 
number of troops. In front of the big 
hole were rocks piled two feet high and 
deep on the front and west flank as con- 
cealment for a machine gun, which was 
sited to fire down into the bowl. A few 
feet to the east of the piled rocks were 
heavy rock slabs three to four feet high; 
behind these the enemy could fire down 
on the east slope of the main ridge south 
of Knob 2. Directly to the rear of these 
positions on the upper slopes of Knob 2 
was a series of rock slabs five to ten yards 
wide. From these the enemy could fire 
across the northern end of the bowl 
toward the western ridge of the mountain 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



185 



and across the steep and inaccessible rock 
formation on the east slope of the main 
Altuzzo ridge. 

A few yards to the west of the big hole 
oh the upper west slope of Knob 2 were 
a few large rocks and slit trenches. Some 
ten yards west and below the big hole 
the enemy had a small trench about two 
feet deep with stones piled up on the sides 
which faced southwest and south. This 
position covered the trail that ran up the 
west slope of Knob 2 from the ridge line 
to the south. 

From Knob 2, which was 300 yards 
south of the crest of the mountain (Hill 
926), the enemy MLR ran along the trail 
northwest around the upper end of the 
bowl to the peak of the western ridge. 
Along the trail the Germans had set up 
a number of machine gun and rifle posi- 
tions from which they could fire down 
the main ridge line, into the heart of the 
bowl, or onto the western ridge. About 
thirty yards northwest of Knob 2 on the 
trail the enemy had the advantage of a 
rock slab seven feet long and three feet 
high, behind which he had set up a 
double machine gun position by digging 
two slit trenches and blasting a deep hole 
out of the rock. Northwest of the double 
position were other large rock slabs be- 
hind which the Germans could fire into 
the bowl and onto the western ridge. 
Halfway down the bowl in front of these 
positions along the trail was at least one 
other prepared position — a log bunker 
which merged into near-by trees so well 
that from a distance it could hardly be 
identified. 

In addition to the frontal defenses 
along the trail, the enemy had flanking 
positions along the west side of the bowl 
on Monte Altuzzo's western ridge, where 
Company B had been stopped the day 



before. Except for the general location 
of these western positions, Gresham and 
Corey knew little about the enemy de- 
fenses on either ridge. Some were so 
well concealed that through the whole 
battle the assault troops failed to locate 
them. 

When the fire began from the left flank 
and Knob 2, the leading squad of Lieu- 
tenant Gresham's platoon dropped to the 
ground. At the head of the squad Sgt. 
Ira Wilson and his first scout, Pvt. Donald 
M. Getty, located a machine gun near 
the ridge line. Facing down the bottom 
of the draw to the west, the machine gun 
had no overhead cover; but on the left 
front a big stone and small bushes gave it 
some concealment. Private Getty was 
so close to the machine gun that he could 
almost touch the barrel. As he opened 
fire with his rifle, other Germans in the 
position behind the rocks began to throw 
hand grenades at the squad, Pulling 
back about ten yards, Sergeant Wilson 
and Private Getty sent word to Lieu- 
tenant Gresham, who was just behind 
the 2d Squad, to pass up grenades. 
Though the supply was short, several 
were promptly passed forward. Private 
Getty and Pvts. Oscar Maynard and 
George W. Schroeder pegged them 
toward the enemy. The Germans re- 
plied with more grenades, causing no 
casualties but bringing several close calls. 
Pvt. James S. Dorris deflected one gre- 
nade with his hands. Another landed 
between the legs of the assistant squad 
leader, Sgt. Edgar Parks, but he kicked 
it away before it exploded. 

With the Germans still reacting vio- 
lently, Private Getty tried to work his 
way around the right flank of the machine 
gun position where stones did not shield 
it. As he crawled forward, he almost 



186 



THREE BATTLES 



bumped head on into a German who had 
just emerged from the position. The 
German surrendered. Sergeant Wilson 
told Getty to prod the prisoner back down 
the ridge line; and, as he left, the other 
men in the 2d Platoon menacingly waved 
their rifles, yelled, and swore at the 
prisoner. 

At intervals during the grenade ex- 
change the Germans inside the position 
tried to make a break to the rear. Each 
time they tried, the forward men in the 
2d Platoon picked off one or two Ger- 
mans with small arms fire. At the head 
of Sergeant Wilson's squad, Private 
Schroeder and Pvt. Waymon A. Banks 
shot one man who was directly to their 
front, and Lieutenant Gresham, firing 
point-blank with his carbine, killed 
another. 

After the first flurry of machine gun 
fire, the enemy's use of small arms was 
sporadic but close-in, although most of 
the bullets went wide of their mark. 
Gresham ordered his men to fix bayonets 
for close-quarter fighting and moved his 
1st and 3d Squads forward to join the 2d. 
With the 1st Squad on the left, the 1st 
and 2d Squads together tried to root the 
Germans out of the positions while the 
3d Squad supported the attack by fire. 
With a few well-aimed shots, the men 
flushed a few more Germans, killing 
several and driving the rest farther up 
the ridge. As the two squads came 
within a few yards of the rocks on the top 
of Knob 2, heavy rifle and machine gun 
fire again halted the advance. No longer 
held in their dugouts by the artillery fire, 
the defenders had crawled to better posi- 
tions on the platoon's left flank. For the 
men of the 2d Platoon this was the more 
dangerous, because the smoke screen had 
lifted and an overcast sky was not enough 



to cut off enemy observation from the top 
of the bowl. From the front the Germans 
again tossed hand grenades, and from the 
left flank machine guns on the western 
ridge began to rake the area. 16 

Flanking Attempt 

Since the flanking and frontal fire was 
getting heavier and a few men had already 
been wounded, Lieutenant Gresham told 
his unit to take cover while he assembled 
his squad leaders for a conference. As 
he was outlining the next move, Lieu- 
tenant Corey came forward to join them. 
Gresham proposed that while the 2d 
Platoon of Company A kept pressure on 
the enemy's front the 1st Platoon of 
Company C advance on the left, envel- 
oping the rock-protected Knob 2 posi- 
tions. Corey approved and returned to 
bring up his platoon. 

As the Company C platoon came for- 
ward, Gresham made contact with 
Sergeant Orr, Corey's 1st Squad leader, 
and told him to build up on his platoon's 
left. While the two leading squads of 
Gresham's platoon continued to keep 
pressure on the enemy by fire to the front, 
Orr directed his men one at a time out 
to the left along the trail that wound over 
the western slope of Knob 2, approxi- 
mately twenty-five yards away from the 
ridge line. They walked single file fifteen 
to twenty yards down the trail past a 
dead German, then dispersed in a skirm- 
ish line, building up on the left flank and 
left rear of the Company A platoon. 
Each man in turn moved a little farther 
to the left along the trail. 

Sergeant Orr's men were no sooner in 
position than Lieutenant Corey arrived 

16 Combat Intervs with Gresham, Wilson, and 
Corey. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



187 



and told the sergeant to move his squad 
farther to the left so that the 3d Squad 
could build up between the 1st and the 
Company A platoon. Also, Corey said, 
the 2d Squad would build up on the left 
of the 1st. As soon as all men were in 
place, they would crawl forward and 
outflank the Knob 2 positions. 

The 2d Squad, which had followed the 
1st to the saddle on the ridge line where 
the trail turned left, passed through and 
around Sergeant Orr's men and kept on 
down the trail. At the far left flank of 
the 2d Squad, Pvt. Albert C. Borum, Jr., 
led up the path, followed by Pfc. Reginald 
W. Parrish and Pfc. Carl E. Hinrichsen. 
To the right rear of these leading men, 
the rest of the 2d Squad began to build 
up a skirmish line. After rounding a 
bend in the trail, Private Borum stopped 
and passed word back to his squad 
leader, S. Sgt. Jay E. Garner, asking if 
he had gone far enough. Sergeant 
Garner told him to go "a little farther," 
but as Borum and Parrish started off 
again they heard sounds of the enemy 
moving in for a counterattack. Standing 
erect, Parrish demanded the Germans' 
surrender. 17 

The Germans replied promptly with 
close-range fire from rifles, machine pis- 
tols, and machine guns. Near the left 
flank of the 2d Squad, the men saw three 
Germans bearing a white flag and shout- 
ing, "Kamerad." Pfc. Edwin L. Buech- 
ler cried out, "What did you say?" 18 
The trio did not bother to reply, for the 
familiar ruse had gained all the time 
they needed. Jumping into a trench 



17 Combat Intervs with the following: Orr, Thomp- 
son, Corey; S Sgt Clifford P. Marx, Pfc Richard M. 
Feeney, and Pfc Robert H. Kessell; Borum; Gresham. 

ls Ibid.; Combat Interv with S Sgt Kenneth L. 
Fankell. 



fifteen to twenty yards away from Ser- 
geant Garner's men, the Germans quickly 
set up a machine gun and opened fire. 
The first burst wounded Pfc. Kenneth L. 
Fankell in one leg, and the fire that 
followed drove others in the squad to 
more concealed positions. For better 
protection, the leading men, Privates 
Parrish and Borum, crawled back behind 
the bend in the trail. 

The enemy on top of the knob joined 
the action by tossing grenades close to 
the Company C platoon. Pvt. Truett J. 
May, ammunition bearer in the 2d 
Squad's BAR team, was wounded slightly 
and fell back to the platoon aid man for 
first aid. Farther to the right the 1st 
Squad of Lieutenant Corey's platoon felt 
the force of the grenades even more than 
the 2d and 3d. Though no one was 
wounded or killed, many were badly 
shaken by concussion. As Pfc. Richard 
M. Feeney was crawling across a little 
rise in the slope above the trail, a grenade 
exploded close by and shook him up con- 
siderably. Numbed, he shouted for the 
man directly behind him, Pvt. Subastian 
D. Gubitosi, to pull him off the small rise. 
A few moments later, after the two men 
had crossed a small open space where the 
enemy had observation, another grenade 
exploded near by. The concussion this 
time gave Private Feeney a severe head- 
ache and knocked the camouflage netting 
from his helmet. Three concussion gre- 
nades landed almost on top of Pvt. Robert 
H. Kessell, shaking him up and sending 
him scurrying down the slope below the 
trail. Three grenades, one of which hit 
his helmet, another his rifle, and the 
third the ground near by, convinced 
Private Markey that he had better move 
his position. Sliding down the slope to 
the trail, he ran to the right to the CP 



188 



THREE BATTLES 



of the Company A platoon. After ob- 
taining a rifle from a wounded soldier 
and casually smoking a cigarette, for he 
was in no hurry to return to the hot spot 
he had just left, he crawled back up the 
slope. Farther up the knob he spotted 
what appeared to be a German position 
and called down for a bazooka. When 
the bazooka man arrived, he and Private 
Markey discovered to the latter's em- 
barrassment that the enemy "position" 
was only an overturned tree stump. 19 

On the extreme right of the Company 
C platoon, the 3d Squad, which Lieu- 
tenant Corey had ordered to fill in the 
gap between the 1st Squad and the 
Company A platoon, had just reached the 
dead German's body on the trail when 
the counterattack began farther up the 
hill. Although the grenades and small 
arms fire were not landing dangerously 
close, the squad leader, S. Sgt. George E. 
Price, halted his men and directed them 
to wait until the situation appeared safer 
before continuing up the slope to tie in 
with Company A. 20 

During the counterattack only a small 
number of men in Lieutenant Gresham's 
platoon were in a position to fire, for the 
Germans were moving in from the left 
front on the western slope of Knob 2. 
But the three men on the left, Privates 
Maynard, Schroeder, and Banks, could 
observe the attack and did yeoman service 
with their rifles. By the time the coun- 
terattack was in full swing, Gresham's 
men had exhausted their supply of gre- 
nades. Corey's men did not use their 
meager supply at all because of the 
danger of hitting their own men who 

19 Combat Intervs with Fankell, Borum, Feeney, 
Kessell, Markey, S Sgt Kyle F. Priestley, and May. 

20 Combat Intervs with Sgt Loyd J. Duffey, Pfc 
Louis J. Hart, Pfc Jackson P. Bagley, and with Corey. 



were stretched out on the slope above the 
trail. 21 In the end the Germans were 
beaten back, but the advantage gained 
was slight compared with the damage 
inflicted on Lieutenant Corey's platoon 
during the counterattack by the explosion 
of a single shell. 

Misplaced Shellfire 

After the 1st and 2d Squads of Com- 
pany C's 1st Platoon had built up a 
skirmish line, but while the 3d Squad 
was still moving into position, fire either 
from artillery or from a direct-fire weapon 
such as a tank or a tank destroyer began 
to land on the southwestern slope of 
Knob 2. As the first shell struck a few 
yards below the platoon, S. Sgt. Donald 
B. Smith, assistant leader of the 2d Squad, 
who was on the right flank of his men, 
called out, "That's our own stuff falling 
short !" 22 A few minutes later a second 
shell landed in the middle of the 2d 
Squad, spraying the nearest men with 
fragments and wrecking the morale of 
others near by. 

Possibly because of the noise from ex- 
ploding grenades, Private Borum, who 
was on the squad's left below the trail, 
did not hear either shell strike the 
ground. As the dirt raised by the second 
shell flew over his head, Private Borum 
turned over and saw that his squad 
leader, Sergeant Garner, had a gaping 
hole in his upper arm, shoulder, and 
chest. Garner was calling, "Get me out ! 
Get me out!" 23 Borum shouted that he 
would go back for help. As he crawled 

21 Combat Intervs with the following: Corey, 
Thompson, and all enlisted survivors still in 1st Plat, 
Co C, 338th Inf; Gresham and Stevens-Michalek- 
Carter-Wilson-Hillier- Pickens. 

22 Combat Interv with Borum. 

23 Ibid. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



189 



down the slope toward the right, he 
noticed several other men lying motion- 
less near the trail and heard another, 
Pvt. Joe M. Self, moan for attention. 
Borum reached Lieutenant Corey and 
reported what had happened. 

When the shell hit the 2d Squad, most 
of the survivors were badly shaken up 
by the concussion, and all withdrew so 
quickly to the platoon CP that they did 
not stop to find out the effects of the 
shell. Although Sergeant Smith and 
Private Borum, two of the uninjured men, 
both knew the toll had been heavy, 
neither could say at first how many or how 
serious the casualties were. To get the 
facts, Lieutenant Corey sent the two men 
back up the trail to the left. Coming to 
the wounded Private Self above the trail, 
they poured water down his throat and 
examined the men around him. They 
saw at a glance that Sergeant Garner was 
dead. Going a little farther to the left, 
they saw Private Parrish die just as they 
reached him. Four more men were 
counted dead, and another besides Pri- 
vate Self was wounded. All together, 
they discovered, the single shell had killed 
six men, including the squad leader, and 
wounded two others. Sergeant Smith 
reported the casualties to Lieutenant 
Corey at the platoon CP, and the Lieu- 
tenant marked them off in the little 
notebook in which he kept the names of 
his platoon. 

The platoon aid man, Pfc. Boyd A. 
West, moved out to do what he could for 
Private Self, but as he walked up the 
slope above the trail the Germans opened 
fire. Although the shots went over his 
head, the aid man waved a bandage so 
that the enemy would discover his non- 
combat mission and cease fire. If the 
Germans saw the impromptu flag they 



gave no sign, continuing to shoot over 
the aid man's head. Despite the fire, 
Private West reached the wounded man 
and bandaged his knee, which had been 
hit by a shell fragment. When he had 
finished, he withdrew to the platoon CP. 

Lieutenant Corey was certain that the 
shellfire which hit his platoon was Amer- 
ican fire. He tried to get word back to 
Lieutenant Souder, the company com- 
mander, to have the fire lifted, but 
neither his radio nor his sound-powered 
telephone raised the company com- 
mander. The telephone had failed when 
the shell had exploded, fragments having 
killed Pvt. Frank A. Jordan, who along 
with Pvt. George Balog had been carrying 
the wire. Private Balog had scampered 
back down the slope to a more secure 
position, and when he returned to the 
platoon CP the telephone would not 
function. With his own communica- 
tions out, Corey sent a messenger to 
Lieutenant Gresham, urging that Gresh- 
am tell battalion to get the shelling lifted 
and that he himself come down at once 
to Corey's CP. Lieutenant Gresham, 
accompanied by his runner, moved the 
thirty-five to fifty yards back to the 
Company C platoon's CP and noted the 
disorganized situation. Although his 
own radio had been out during the coun- 
terattack, Gresham tried it again; this 
time it worked, and he relayed Corey's 
request to Captain King. 24 

The news of what had happened to 
Lieutenant Corey's platoon shocked Colo- 
nel Jackson and Lieutenant Farber, the 
liaison officer from the 329th Field 
Artillery Battalion to the 338th's 1st 
Battalion, into immediate action. Both 

24 Ibid.; Combat Intervs with the following: Balog 
and West; Feeney, Corey, Priestley, Gresham, and 
King. 



190 



THREE BATTLES 



tried through regiment, the 329th Field 
Artillery, and the divisional and corps 
artillery to get the fire lifted. Lieutenant 
Farber felt sure that the two rounds had 
come from somewhere in the Sieve River 
valley, but the offending gun could not 
be located. Because a number of tanks 
and tank destroyers were in support of 
the 1st Battalion attack but under regi- 
mental (338th) control, the liaison officer 
guessed that one of them had been the 
source of fire which had not been given 
enough range to clear the mountain and 
had landed in the midst of Company C's 
1st Platoon. 25 Lieutenant Corey's men 
felt certain that American artillery was 
responsible. The riflemen disagreed only 
over whether the two rounds came from 
a 105-mm. howitzer, from a 240-mm. 
howitzer, or from an 8-inch gun. 26 

Whatever the weapon, everybody 
agreed that it was American, not Ger- 
man. Before long the news of what had 
happened reached all the firing battalions, 
and no more shells landed in the area. 
It is possible, however, that the shells 
were enemy, for in the middle of the 
afternoon both the 85th Division G-2 
and division artillery reported that Ger- 
man shells had fallen on Monte Altuzzo. 27 

Although only a single round had 
struck Lieutenant Corey's platoon, the 
resulting confusion and the belief that it 
was friendly fire had a demoralizing 
effect upon those who survived. The 
shell had dazed and shaken up most of 
the men left in the 1st and 2d Squads, 
including the 1st Squad leader, Sergeant 
Orr. After the second shell exploded, 



25 Combat Intervs with Jackson and Farber. 

26 Combat Intervs with ail enlisted survivors still 
in 1st Plat, Co C, 338th Inf. 

57 Ibid.; Combat Intervs with Jackson and Farber; 
85th Div G-2 Jnl, 15 Sep 44. 



all the men had withdrawn quickly, at 
least as far as the saddle between Knobs 
1 and 2 where the trail turned left away 
from the ridge line. Some men had 
rushed wildly down the mountain for 150 
yards, and a handful had gone all the 
way to the covered positions below the 
peak of Hill 782 on its southwestern slope 
where they joined the 2d Platoon, 
Company C. 

Lieutenant Corey tried now to bring 
order out of chaos, to reorganize the 
platoon's defense, and to bring back all 
the men who had run down the ridge. 
With the assistance of his platoon ser- 
geant, Sgt. William A. Thompson, and 
the platoon guide, S. Sgt. William S. 
Trigg, the platoon leader directed those 
men who had withdrawn to the saddle 
between Knob 1 and Knob 2 in the trail 
to build up a defense covering both sides 
of the ridge line. All together not more 
than eighteen men set up the new defense 
thirty-five yards to the rear of Company 
A's 2d Platoon. A few yards farther to 
the rear in the rocks on the top of Knob 
1, Sergeant Trigg, an extra automatic 
rifle team, and the bazooka team con- 
tinued to guard the platoon's rear and 
the extreme right flank. 

After the shellfire had come in, Ser- 
geant Price, 3d Squad leader, had sent 
four or five riflemen and his BAR man 
to positions on the slope above the trail 
to the left rear of Company A's 2d 
Platoon. Except for Pfc. Michael Burja, 
who assisted Gresham's men on the right 
flank, at no time while in these positions 
did the group fire at the enemy. The rest 
of the 3d Squad either remained with the 
assistant squad leader, Sgt. Loyd J. 
Duffey, below the bend in the trail or 
straggled farther down the ridge. 

While Lieutenant Corey remained to 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



191 



direct the defense at the bend of the trail, 
Platoon Sergeant Thompson went down 
the ridge with the platoon runner, Pfc. 
Randolph H. Bishop, to bring back those 
men who, after the shellfire, had with- 
drawn past Knob 1 as far back as Hill 
782. Going back to the rocks at the 
peak of Hill 782, Sergeant Thompson 
found several men, including an assistant 
squad leader, and brought them back up 
the ridge. This assistant squad leader 
had been so unnerved by the shelling that 
he had walked on down the mountain 
between Knob 1 and Hill 782 and seated 
himself right on the ridge line in full view 
of the enemy. All he could think about 
was that Sergeant Garner, his best friend, 
had been killed in one lightning stroke. 
He remembered bitterly that that day, 
15 September, was Sergeant Garner's 
birthday. 

Sergeant Thompson failed to find some 
of the stragglers, because they had gone 
even farther down the hill to the south- 
western slope of Hill 782 just above the 
barbed wire. One man whom he did 
find refused to return on the ground that 
his back hurt and that he had to go to the 
company CP for medical attention. In 
all, the 1st Platoon sergeant made three 
trips down the ridge to round up the half- 
dozen stragglers he brought back. Upon 
their return they filled out the platoon's 
positions, but such shaky, nervous men 
did little to strengthen the defense. 28 

While the defense of the 1st Platoon, 
Company C, was being reorganized, 
Lieutenant Gresham informed Lieuten- 
ant Corey that his 2d Platoon, Company 
A, would try to move men to the rear of 
the Germans in the rocks on Knob 2. 



28 Combat Intervs with Duffey, Feeney, West, 
Borum, Bagley, Hart, Marx, May, Bishop, Burja, Pfc 
Earl B. Gray, Corey, Thompson, Orr, and Priestley. 



Hoping that another attempt at envelop- 
ment might break the enemy resistance, 
Gresham asked that Corey's platoon pro- 
tect the left rear of his men. Gresham's 
plan awakened no enthusiasm in Lieu- 
tenant Corey, who doubted even the 
value of holding on in his bare, rocky 
position. Haunted by the heavy losses 
Company B had taken the previous day, 
he feared that if his men remained they 
would suffer a similar fate. In spite of 
these misgivings Corey promised that his 
men would hold and would support 
Gresham's attack. 29 

Long-Range Fire and Counterattack 

Before Lieutenant Gresham could move 
his platoon forward again, the Germans 
opened fire from the right rear and left 
flank, keeping the Company A men on 
the defensive. The rear guard of Gresh- 
am's platoon, Platoon Sergeant Stevens 
and five other men, began receiving 
enemy fire from two machine guns on the 
western slopes of Monte Verruca. Al- 
though Sergeant Stevens' group quickly 
silenced one of the guns with return fire, 
the other continued to harass them for 
some time. Soon the group spotted five 
more Germans with a machine gun mov- 
ing up to the right rear about 500 yards 
away on the eastern slope of the Altuzzo 
ridge southeast of the peak of Hill 782. 
Bringing a BAR and rifles to bear, the 
platoon's rear guard killed or wounded 
two of the enemy and drove the rest to 
cover. 

Scarcely had the long-range action 
ceased, when about fifteen Germans 
counterattacked on t he left fl ank of 
Gresham's platoon. 30 \(Map U)\ Word 



29 Combat Intervs with Gresham and Corey. 

30 Combat Intervs with Gresham and Stevens. 



KNOB 2 

SITUATION BEFORE SECOND 
GERMAN COUNTERATTACK 

Afternoon, 15 September 




MAP 14 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



193 



had already come from an enemy radio 
intercept that the Germans were going to 
counterattack soon from the north or 
northeast. Although the 85th Division 
artillery reported at 1440 that it had 
placed fire on the area where the enemy 
force was forming, the Germans still 
struck. 

At 1 320 the Germans on Monte Altuzzo 
had radioed that Hill 926 was firmly in 
their hands. They stated that their 
"blocking position" ran from the trail 
crossing at the north end of Knob 2 for 
about 200 yards west-northwest. The 
blocking position was being extended by 
the 2d Battalion, 12th Parachute Regiment, 
to an observation post north of the peak 
of the western ridge near the switchbacks 
in the highway. Adding that the troops 
that had broken through at Hill 782 
were surrounded, the 3d Battalion, 12th 
Regiment, which occupied the main line 
of resistance, declared it would throw the 
Americans back to the southwest. The 
reserves were to counterattack on the 
line from Hill 624 to Hill 782.31 

The first word Lieutenant Gresham's 
men had of the counterattack came from 
the Company C platoon, which reported 
enemy movement to its left front and fire 
from a bend in the trail. The Germans 
were moving in from the western slope 
of Knob 2, abandoned by Company C's 
platoon after the second shell had burst. 
Using rifles, machine pistols, and gre- 
nades, the Germans came in close, some- 
times advancing within a few yards of 
the rear Company A men. Lieutenant 
Gresham's men not only fired point-blank 
whenever a German came in sight but 
also reacted with area fire. Although 



» 85th Div G-2 Jnl, 15 Sep 44; 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 
15 Sep 44. 



the 1st Platoon, Company C, was not in 
position for effective fire, a few men did 
fire in the direction of the attack. Sev- 
eral men in Gresham's platoon were 
wounded, though a few with light in- 
juries continued to fight. In the end 
superior fire power, mainly from the 
Company A platoon, drove the Germans 
back up the ridge. 32 

Supporting Platoons on Hill 782 

During the advance of the two leading 
platoons and during the enemy counter- 
attacks, the rest of Company A and 
Company C had remained aloof from 
the battle, staying for the most part in 
concealed positions behind the peak of 
Hill 782. The narrow, exposed route of 
advance west of the main ridge line and 
the sheer drop-off on the eastern slope 
left no room for the deployment of more 
men. Behind Lieutenant Corey's 1st 
Platoon (Company C) had followed in 
single file Company C's 2d Platoon. 
After the forward advance was stopped, 
the 2d Platoon leader, 1st Lt. David M. 
Brumbaugh, halted his men just west of 
the ridge line from Knob 1 to Hill 782, 
fifty yards to the rear of Corey's platoon. 
From that area the 2d Platoon could see 
the fight in progress up the ridge but 
could not give supporting fire without 
taking the chance of hitting the assault 
troops. The 1st Platoon of Company A 
had remained on the slope of Hill 782 
between the barbed wire and the peak; 
the other rifle platoons, the 3d of Com- 
pany A and the 3d of Company C, had 
stayed below the entanglement near the 
company command posts. 

32 Combat Intervs with Gresham, Stevens, Priestley, 
Marx, Duffey, Markey, Feeney, Bagley, Hart, Burja, 
and Borum. 



194 



THREE BATTLES 



While the attack was going on, none 
of the machine guns were able to reach 
firing positions from which they could 
support the leading riflemen. One ma- 
chine gun squad of Company A had 
followed Lieutenant Gresham's platoon 
to the top of Hill 782 but had not fired 
because of its exposed position. The 
other squad set itself up briefly on the 
slope below the peak of Hill 782. To the 
right the light machine guns of Company 
C stopped above the barbed wire, where 
they had some concealment but lacked 
good firing positions. 

Although the 60-mm. mortars of both 
Companies A and C were set up in 
defilade on the slopes of Hill 782 and 
Hill 624, respectively, they were never 
used because the company commanders 
were afraid their fire would fall on the 
attacking rifle platoons. But while the 
attack was in progress 1st Lt. Merlin E. 
Ritchey and T. Sgt. Zealin W. Russell, 
Weapons Platoon leader and platoon 
sergeant, Company C, with good ob- 
servation up the Altuzzo ridge, directed 
artillery fire on the big rock escarpment 
between the enemy's main line of re- 
sistance on Knob 2 and the highest peak 
of the mountain, Hill 926. 33 

Back at the battalion and regimental 
command posts Colonel Jackson and 
Colonel Mikkelsen had received frag- 
mentary reports of the 1st Battalion's 
progress. At 1030 the 1st Battalion re- 
ported that Companies A and C were 
about 500 yards from the top of Monte 
Altuzzo and were still moving forward 
under mortar fire. An hour later the 

53 Combat Intervs with the following: MacMinn, 
King, and T Sgt William H. Kohler; Ritchey, 
Russell, and T Sgt Dale E. Burkholder; MacMinn, 
White, and S Sgt Robert W. Kistner, Jr.; Van 
Horne, South, Whary, Colosimo, Grigsby, Albert, 
and Brumbaugh. 



1st Battalion reported that its troops, 
having struck resistance on the crest of 
the mountain, were on the west slope of 
the main ridge at a point a hundred 
yards beyond their actual positions on 
Knob 2. Again at 1206 the 1st Battalion 
reported that its attacking troops were 
on the "1st Knob" of Monte Altuzzo, 
calling for lots of artillery fire on the 
"2d Knob." Finally, at 1405, Com- 
panies A and C were reported by the 
338th Infantry to have one platoon each 
closing for the assault against Hill 926 
with one platoon from each company 
ready to follow. 34 

Withdrawal 

While Lieutenant Corey was reorgan- 
izing the 1st Platoon, Lieutenant Brum- 
baugh (2d Platoon, Company C), who 
was behind a rock on Knob 1 and near 
Corey, called Lieutenant Souder, the 
company commander, on his SCR 536. 
Brumbaugh asked permission to with- 
draw his platoon, which was stretched 
out in column to the rear of the 1st 
Platoon between Knob 1 and the crest 
of Hill 782. If his platoon withdrew to 
the southwestern slope of Hill 782, 
Brumbaugh said, his men could have 
better cover and could still come to the 
assistance of the 1st Platoon if needed. 
Before giving permission, Souder said he 
would have to get battalion approval. 
While Brumbaugh waited for the answer, 
Corey said to him, "I don't see why we 
all don't withdraw." 35 A few minutes 
later the battalion commander approved 
the original request on the condition that 
Lieutenant Brumbaugh keep abreast of 

34 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 15 Sep 44; 85th Div G-3 Jnl, 
15 Sep 44. 

35 Combat Intervs with Brumbaugh and Souder. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



195 



the 1st Platoon's situation. The order 
did not apply to Lieutenant Corey's men, 
who were to remain in position farther 
up the ridge and continue the attack 
with the 2d Platoon, Company A. 

Leaving Lieutenant Corey at his pla- 
toon CP on Knob 1, Lieutenant Brum- 
baugh moved his 2d Platoon single file 
250 yards to positions among the rocks 
on the southwest slope of Hill 782, below 
the peak. Placing the 3d Squad leader, 
S. Sgt. Joseph S. Adams, in charge, the 
lieutenant and his platoon sergeant, T. 
Sgt. Tony L. White, continued down 
below the barbed wire to the company 
CP, where the platoon leader explained 
to Lieutenant Souder his reasons for 
requesting withdrawal. 36 

It seemed ironical that a platoon which 
had sustained only one casualty before 
withdrawing to better concealment should 
now suffer casualties. Enemy mortar 
shells began to pelt the area where Lieu- 
tenant Brumbaugh's men were digging in. 
The mortar concentration killed two men 
and wounded eight, including some from 
the 1st Platoon who had run down the 
mountain after the stray artillery shell 
had disorganized their platoon. Besides 
inflicting these casualties, the enemy 
shelling also wounded Lieutenant Mac- 
Minn, 1st Platoon leader, Company A, 
and wiped out one Company A machine 
gun squad. The machine gunners had 
just set up below the peak of Hill 782 
to guard the right flank when one mortar 
shell wounded two men and killed the 
other three. 37 

After the 2d Platoon, Company C, 
had withdrawn to the slope below the 

36 Ibid.; Combat Intervs with Jackson, White, and 
Kistner. 

17 Combat Intervs with Jackson, White, Kistner, 
Brumbaugh, MacMinn, King, and Kohler. 



peak of Hill 782, a cry passed up to 
Lieutenant Corey and his 1st Platoon: 
"Withdraw!" 38 Although the message 
traveled by word of mouth from man to 
man, no one remembered who started it, 
only that it had come from somewhere 
on the slope below. Making no effort to 
check the message, Lieutenant Corey 
assumed it was authentic. His men 
peeled off spontaneously as soon as they 
heard the cry. To the platoon leader 
and the men alike the withdrawal "order" 
was welcome, for it told them to do what 
everyone apparently wanted to do. 
Corey started down the ridge behind his 
men. 39 

Since no message for Lieutenant 
Corey's platoon to withdraw had been 
passed up from the 2d Platoon, it seems 
likely the cry originated with some mem- 
ber of the 1st Platoon who had seen the 
2d withdraw and thought or wished the 
movement to apply to him. When the 
withdrawal started, Sergeant Thompson 
and the platoon runner, Private Bishop, 
were between the 1st and 2d Platoons on 
the ridge line between Knob 1 and Hill 
782, still trying to bring back stragglers 
who had run down the hill after the 
misplaced shellfire. Had the cry for 



38 Combat Intervs with all enlisted survivors in 1st 
and 2d Plats, Co C, 338th Inf, and with Corey. 

39 Ibid. Although he did not so state in the first 
interviews held with him, Lieutenant Corey stated 
later ( 13 April 45) that just before the cry to withdraw 
was heard he had sent a note by runner to Lieutenant 
Souder, requesting permission to withdraw. Corey 
said he reasoned that the attack had bogged down, 
that his men had sustained heavy casualties, and that 
sounds from the left flank indicated that his platoon 
was being surrounded. No reply had been received, 
the lieutenant said, when his platoon withdrew. If 
such a message was sent, it never reached the com- 
pany commander. The historian was unable to find 
any officer or enlisted survivor in Company C besides 
Lieutenant Corey who knew that such a message was 
sent. Cf. Combat Intervs with Souder. 



196 



THREE BATTLES 



withdrawal come from the 2d Platoon, 
which was below them on the slope, the 
platoon sergeant and his runner would 
certainly have heard it. They heard 
nothing, only saw the main body of the 
1st Platoon above them moving fast on 
the way down the ridge. They followed 
suit. 

When the withdrawing men reached 
the peak of Hill 782, they saw the casual- 
ties which the 2d Platoon had suffered 
from mortar fire, and some men assisted 
the ambulatory casualties down the 
ridge. Others loaded themselves with 
extra rifles and went below the entangle- 
ment halfway down the slope to the 
company CP. A few men of the 1st and 
2d Platoons tried to improvise a litter 
of field jackets and rifles, but the effort 
failed because the wounded man they 
tried to put on it was too tall. Pending 
later evacuation, they hid him in the 
bushes and hurried down the slope to 
join the rest of the company. For lack 
of litters, the other nonwalking wounded 
were left on the slope above the barbed 
wire. 40 

As the 2d Platoon reached the com- 
pany CP, Lieutenant Souder, the com- 
pany commander, noticed that some 1st 
Platoon men were arriving too. They 
could tell him only that word had come 
up the line to withdraw, and they had 
obeyed. When Lieutenant Corey ap- 
peared, Lieutenant Souder said he had 
given no such authorization and had re- 
ceived no request from Lieutenant Corey 
for the 1st Platoon's withdrawal. Al- 
though he was angered by the platoon's 
abandonment of its position, it was now 



40 Combat Intervs with Corey, Orr, Priestley, 
Marx, Bagley, Hart, Burja, Feeney, Thompson, and 
Borum. 



an accomplished fact about which he 
could do nothing. 41 

After Company C had started to with- 
draw, Sergeant Stevens and the rear 
guard of the 2d Platoon, Company A, 
spotted two German squads of four men 
each below the peak of Hill 782 on the 
eastern slope of the main ridge. Al- 
though the Germans were carrying lit- 
ters, Sergeant Stevens suspected that 
machine guns were hidden on them and 
he directed his men to fire. Their shots 
killed two of the Germans and drove the 
rest to cover. A moment later, as if to 
confirm Sergeant Stevens' guess about 
the loads the Germans were carrying, 
two machine guns opened fire from the 
same vicinity, wounding several men in 
Lieutenant Gresham's platoon. 42 

In the midst of this new fire from the 
rear, Lieutenant Gresham received word 
that Company C had withdrawn. The 
cry to pull back had reached the rear 
men of his platoon, and, as a few of 
Lieutenant Corey's men who were farth- 
est up the hill began to withdraw, some 
of Gresham's men started to follow. 
Alert to what was happening, Gresham 
promptly pulled his men back and sent 
two scouts down to check with Corey's 
platoon. The scouts confirmed Com- 
pany C's withdrawal. The lieutenant 
tried in vain to reach Captain King by 
radio and then decided that in the face 
of the continuing heavy fire it would be 
costly, if not impossible, to remain un- 
aided in the Knob 2 positions. He told 
his squad leaders his decision and sent 
the 3d Squad to protect the platoon's 
rear and to make contact with Company 
C. Moving some distance down the 



41 Combat Intervs with Souder and Corey. 

42 Combat Intervs with Gresham and Stevens. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



197 



ridge, the squad sent word back that the 
Company C platoon could not be found. 

While machine gun fire from the right 
rear continued, Gresham ordered the 
rest of his men to move back quickly 
down the ridge. To speed their with- 
drawal, the men dropped their blanket 
rolls, brought along in the attack. The 
time was well into the afternoon, prob- 
ably about 1530. The withdrawal down 
the ridge was well organized, and all the 
platoon's wounded were evacuated except 
Private Dorris, who was left behind until 
a litter could be brought. Private 
Banks, who had shell fragments in his 
legs and stomach and should have waited 
for litter evacuation, ran all the way 
down to the company area below the 
barbed wire because he feared being left 
on the mountain. Almost the first man 
to reach the bottom of the hill, he col- 
lapsed at the company command post 
and had to be carried to the battalion aid 
station. 43 

When Lieutenant Gresham, bringing 
up the rear of his platoon, reached the 
rocks just below the peak of Hill 782 
where he had met the 1st Platoon, Com- 
pany C, that morning, he saw Captain 
King and explained to him the circum- 
stances which had brought about with- 
drawal. Captain King approved his 
action. Colonel Jackson in turn ap- 
proved the withdrawal of the two com- 
panies and told them to prepare for the 
next assault. 44 

After the rifle companies' withdrawal, 
litter squads were sent up to evacuate 
the wounded who had been left behind. 
A smoke screen cover was fired by the 
403d Field Artillery Battalion. Guided 

43 Combat Intervs with Gresham. 

44 Ibid.; Combat Intervs with King, Jackson, and 
Souder. 



by Pfc. Clifford P. Marx, 1st Platoon, ten 
men returned for the wounded of Com- 
pany C. Five of them found Private 
Hinrichsen above the barbed wire and 
pulled him out while the smoke was still 
thick. Although the other five continued 
up the ridge in an effort to reach Private 
Self, they moved only a few yards past 
the peak of Hill 782 before the smoke 
lifted and a machine gun from the front 
drove them back. Private Self was sub- 
sequently captured. While the smoke 
lasted, several men of Company A's 
mortar section moved up the ridge and 
evacuated Private Dorris. 45 

During the battle Company A had lost 
three men killed and fifteen wounded, 
and Company C nine killed, twenty-one 
wounded, and one missing in action — a 
total for the two companies of forty-nine. 
While these losses were not excessive, 
they were felt strongly in a battalion 
which had already lost more than half 
of Company B. The strain of battle was 
beginning to tell, and the number of 
exhaustion cases was increasing. That 
night an enemy mortar concentration 
close to the 1st Battalion aid station hit 
a near-by outbuilding at Paretaio Farm- 
house, killed one litterbearer, and wound- 
ed several others. 46 

The Day's Action 

The fourth attack against Monte 
Altuzzo on 15 September had brought 
the farthest advance yet on the main 
ridge. The leading platoons of Com- 
panies A and C had been within 250 
yards of the top of the mountain (Hill 



45 Combat Intervs with Marx and Gresham; 403d 
FA Bn Mission Rpts, 15 Sep 44. 

4 <* Cos A and C, 338th Inf, Morning Rpts, 16 Sep 
44; 1st Bn, 338th Inf, Aid Station Log, 15 Sep 44. 



198 



THREE BATTLES 



926) and had come under the nose of the 
main German defenses at the top of the 
bowl on Knob 2. Yet the attack had 
failed to knock out the heavy semicircle 
of positions guarding the top of the bowl. 
A major factor was the shellfire which 
had inflicted heavy casualties on Com- 
pany C's 1st Platoon and had demoralized 
most of the survivors. 

In spite of the repeated failures, the 
cumulative effect of American efforts was 
being felt. The infantry and the artillery 
were inflicting casualties on the enemy, 
wearing down his powers of resistance, 
and forcing him to commit first the bat- 
talion and regimental reserves of the 12th 
Parachute Regiment, then divisional and 
finally corps reserves from other sectors 
of the front. 47 

As on the day before, effective artillery, 
tank, and tank destroyer fire had been 
placed on the enemy bunkers on Monte 
Altuzzo. Several hits had been scored, 
and a few positions had been severely 
damaged. Heavy artillery — 240-mm. 
howitzers and 8-inch guns — was credited 
with placing destructive fire on several 
positions. 

In midmorning the 403d Field Artillery 
Battalion fired 1 12 rounds against enemy 
activity on the slopes north of Monte 
Verruca and six rounds at German 
mortars between Hill 926 and Pian di 
Giogo to the east. The 329th Field 
Artillery Battalion in direct support con- 
tributed a number of harassing missions, 
three TOT's, and observed fire on enemy 
pillboxes, personnel, mortars, and ma- 
chine guns in the Altuzzo area. It also 
fired a concentration to repel a counter- 
attack against the 1st Battalion, 338th. 

< 7 IPW and S-2 Rpts, 338th Inf Unit Jnl, Sep 44; 
Radio Intercepts, 338th Inf Unit Jnl, and 85th Div 
G-2 Jnl, 13-15 Sep 44. 



With a ground observation post adjust- 
ing, a battalion of heavy corps artillery 
scored four target hits on the crest of 
Monte Altuzzo and three target hits on 
pillboxes on the western ridge, claiming 
at least one pillbox destroyed. At 1500 
the 85th Division artillery placed harass- 
ing fire on Monte Verruca and the area 
between Altuzzo and the highway. 

During 15 September the 1st Platoon, 
Company B, 84th Chemical Battalion 
(4.2-inch mortars), in support of the 1st 
Battalion, 338th, fired harassing missions 
of seven rounds of high explosive and 
forty-two rounds of white phosphorus. 
The 2d Platoon fired sixty rounds of high 
explosive near the highway. In addi- 
tion, the 81 -mm. mortars behind Paretaio 
Farmhouse fired in the draws east and 
west of Monte Altuzzo. 

From positions north of Scarperia, 
Company B, 805th Tank Destroyer Bat- 
talion, using forward observation, fired 
about 1,000 rounds during the day at 
suspected pillboxes and machine gun 
positions at the long range of 4,000 yards. 
For the most part the destroyers' targets 
were east of the highway in the Giogo 
Pass area and on the slopes of Monte 
Altuzzo. The tank destroyers claimed 
destruction of one pillbox. Because the 
pillboxes were high on the steep moun- 
tains and good firing positions could not 
be reached by roads or the adjacent slopes, 
the tank destroyer guns had to shoot at 
long range with a high angle of eleva- 
tion. Hits in the rock were damaging 
but not destructive; hits in the aperture 
were more effective. The 76-mm. gun 
on the destroyers had a good percentage 
of hits with both high explosive and 
armor-piercing ammunition. 48 

48 Mission Rpts in 403d FA Bn, and 178th and 
423d FA Gps, Unit Jnls, 15 Sep 44; 84th Cml Bn 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



199 




Many positions, especially the heavy 
rock slabs and other open positions 
around the top of the Altuzzo bowl, 
remained unidentified and untouched 
by supporting fires. Even where the 
bunkers were hit by light and medium 
artillery, most of the personnel inside 
probably survived. Unless the bunkers 



Unit Jnl and AAR, 15 Sep 44; 85th Div G-2 and 
G-3 Jnls, 15 Sep 44; 805th TD Bn AAR, Sep 44; 
Combat Intervs with Capt Clarence D. Brown and 
other officers of Co D, 338th Inf; 752d Tk Bn AAR, 
Sep 44, 



were severely damaged they could be 
remanned as long as the Germans had 
the troops. 49 

While the 1st Battalion, 338th Infan- 
try, was making the main effort to cap- 
ture the crest of Monte Altuzzo, the units 
on its flanks were equally unsuccessful in 
attacks against defenses in the rest of the 
Giogo Pass sector. On the 338th's right 



49 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 15-18 Sep 44; 85th Div G-2 
and G-3 Jnls, 15-18 Sep 44; Notes of several recon- 
naissances of the area by the author from Nov 44 to 
Apr 45. 



200 



THREE BATTLES 



flank the 339th Infantry at midnight on 
14 September attacked Monte Verruca, 
but the assault companies were stopped 
by mines and barbed wire and then 
driven back by mortar and machine gun 
fire. West of Monte Altuzzo along 
Highway 6524, the 2d Battalion, 338th, 
made no advance from l'Uomo Morto. 
West of the highway the 91st Division's 
363d Infantry attacked up the western 
ridge of Monticelli during the early 
morning of 15 September, but failed to 
breach the enemy MLR. Even the 361st 
Infantry, striking on the west of the 363d, 
failed to outflank Monticelli. At the 
end of 15 September the 85th and 91st 
Divisions had everywhere failed to break 
through the Gothic Line. 50 

The Enemy Situation 

During three days of fighting, the 12th 
Parachute Regiment and the rest of the 4th 
Parachute Division had sustained heavy 
casualties. By the end of 15 September 
the paratroopers of the 1st Battalion, 12th 
Regiment, in the Altuzzo sector were in 
dire need of reinforcement. The 1st 
Company had suffered especially heavy 
losses, including the company command- 
er's death on 14 September. A prisoner 
captured later on Monte Altuzzo re- 
ported having seen eleven men killed and 
many others wounded in the 1st Company 
between 13 September and the morning 
of 16 September. On 15 September the 
1st Platoon, 1st Company, alone had five 
killed and ten wounded. While infantry 
attacks had caused a number of the 
casualties, artillery fire had been more 

50 2d Bn, 338th Inf, Unit Jnls, 14-15 Sep 44; 85th 
Div and 91st Div G-3 Jnls, 14-15 Sep 44; Fifth 
Army G-3 Jnl File, 14-15 Sep 44; Combat Intervs 
with Cole; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, AAR, Sep 44, 



effective by killing and wounding Ger- 
man reinforcements as they moved into 
position. For example, as the Engineer 
Platoon, 12th Regiment, came into the for- 
ward area, American artillery fire killed 
four men and wounded seven. 

The 12th Parachute Regiment's reserve 
and the reserve of the 3d Battalion had 
definitely been committed. Since the 
division's reserve troops were being sent 
in to strengthen the forces on Monte 
Altuzzo and Verruca, it seems likely that 
the reserves of the 1st and 2d Battalions 
had also been committed. The enemy 
admitted during the evening that the 4th 
Parachute Division had committed its last 
reserves and claimed that these had been 
used successfully to block local pene- 
trations. 

Even with the reinforcements of 14 
September the companies of the 12th 
Regiment were still short their normal 
complements. Their ranks were filled 
with noninfantry replacements or para- 
troopers who had had short training and 
no specialized work, among them all 
headquarters and service personnel of the 
4th Parachute Division who could be spared. 
During the night of 15-16 September the 
Monte Altuzzo sector was reinforced by 
the 10th and 15th Companies, the Engineer 
Platoon of the 12th Regiment, and a miscel- 
laneous group of twenty men from the 
4th Antitank Battalion, 4th Parachute Divi- 
sion, (Though the 15th Company's total 
strength on 10 September was eighty 
men, American artillery fire had by the 
night of 1 5 September caused 20 percent 
losses.) 51 

In addition to bringing up division 
reserves, the enemy began on the night 

51 338th Inf Unit Jnl, IPW Rpts, and Intel Sums, 
14-18 Sep 44; 85th Div G-2 and G-3 Jnls, 15-18 
Sep 44; 85th Div G-2 Rpts, Sep 44. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



201 



of 15-16 September to move units from 
as far west as the sector north of Lucca 
where the front was relatively quiet. 
After the enemy realized that the 12th 
Regiment alone could not hold the Giogo 
Pass sector, the 2d Battalion, Grenadier 
Lehr Brigade, which had been in corps 
reserve north of Lucca, began to move 
by trucks and horse-drawn vehicles to 
Firenzuola from where it could be sent 
to the forward positions. During 15 
September the 2d Battalion, Grenadier Lehr 
Brigade, arrived at the / Parachute Corps, 
but the 1st Battalion was still on the 
march. Although by the morning of 16 
September this small group of reinforce- 



ments was on the way to the front-line 
positions, these reserves were hardly 
strong enough to enable the enemy to 
hold the Giogo Pass defenses for any 
prolonged period. Furthermore, they 
would not be available for more than 
three or four days. Sometime on 15 or 
16 September, Field Marshal Kesselring, 
commander of Army Group C, changed his 
orders, allowing the 16th SS Panzer Grena- 
dier Division to remain in Fourteenth Army's 
coastal sector. A condition of this change 
in order stipulated that the Lehr Brigade 
would go to the Tenth Army during the 
nights of 18-19 and 19-20 September. 52 

51 Entries of 14—16 Sep 44, Fourteenth Army KTB 4. 



CHAPTER IV 



Advance to the Crest 

(16 September) 



Although he still wanted another 
chance to take the crest of Monte Altuzzo, 
Colonel Jackson reported to the 338th 
Infantry after his 1st Battalion had been 
stopped at the enemy's main line of 
resistance on 15 September that his rifle 



companies had sustained considerable 
casualties and needed an opportunity 
that night for rest and reorganization. 
Since Colonel Mikkelsen had been sick 
with a cold and nervous exhaustion and 
was confined to bed with a high fever, 



I 



PAINTING OF MONTE ALTUZZO AREA from the slope in front of Paretaio 
Farmhouse . Painting by Sgl. Ludwig Mactarian, combat artist of the Fifth Army. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



203 



the 338th executive officer, Lt. Col. 
Marion P. Boulden, was left to shoulder 
most of the routine work. The plans 
were worked out by the assistant 85th 
Division commander, Brig. Gen. Lee S. 
Gerow, who had commanded the regi- 
ment during the training period in the 
States. The night of 15 September 
Colonel Jackson told General Gerow that 
Monte Altuzzo could not be taken with- 
out a co-ordinated divisional attack. 

General Gerow agreed to Jackson's 
recommendation that the 2d Battalion 
attack abreast of the 1st the next day, 
and tentative plans were made later that 
night. They called for the 2d Battalion 
to advance up the highway at 2100, while 
the 1st Battalion would resume its attack 
against Hill 926 at midnight. The 3d 
was to pass through the 1st after Altuzzo's 
crest was captured. 1 These plans were 
canceled by the 85th Division com- 
mander, General Coulter, in order to 
await the outcome of an attack by the 
363d Infantry, 91st Division, against 
Monticelli at 0600 the next morning. 2 
A co-ordinated attack by the two assault 
battalions of the 338th Infantry was to 
follow as soon as Monticelli was secured. 
To prepare for this later operation, Com- 
pany F of the 2d Battalion attacked just 
before midnight to secure a little knob 

1 Combat Intervs with Jackson, Boulden, and Cole; 
338th Inf Unit Jnl, 15 Sep 44; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, 
Unit Jnl, 15-16 Sep 44. 

2 According to 85th Division records, the 91st 
Division requested that the 338th Infantry delay its 
attack on Altuzzo until Monticelli was taken. 
Records of the 85th Division make no note of the 
fact that a vigorous attack against Altuzzo might have 
helped the 91st Division effort. Evidence from Gen- 
eral Gerow and from the 91st Division tends to 
contradict this entry in the 85th Division records. 
338th Inf Unit Jnl, 15-16 Sep 44; 85th Div G-3 
Jnl, 15-16 Sep 44; Combat Interv with Gerow; Ltr, 
Maj R. H. Gordon, 91st Div historian, to the author, 
10 Mar 45. 



along the highway 400 yards north of 
l'Uomo Morto on Monticelli's eastern 
arm. Although Company F knocked 
out two machine gun positions and tried 
until dawn to advance, the attack failed. 3 

While infantry plans were being shaped, 
corps and division artillery continued to 
harass the enemy's lines of communica- 
tion. During the night, for example, the 
403d Field Artillery Battalion put eleven 
TOT concentrations of thirty-six rounds 
each on the slopes of Hill 926, Pian di 
Giogo, Monte Verruca, and areas along 
the highway north of the Giogo Pass, and 
fired other harassing missions in the 
vicinity of the pass. 4 

During the night of 15-16 September 
the 1st and 2d Battalions, 363d Infantry, 
which had been attacking Monticelli, 
were hard-pressed to repulse five enemy 
counterattacks; well after dawn the next 
morning the 3d Battalion, 363d, scheduled 
to make an 0600 attack for which the 
338th Infantry's attack was waiting, had 
not yet pushed off. About 0800, reports 
that the enemy on Monte Altuzzo, rein- 
forced by the 10th Company, 10th Parachute 
Regiment, was planning a counterattack 
led the 85th Division to alert the forward 
infantry elements and artillery observers. 
The threat never materialized and did 
not interfere with the plans for resump- 
tion of the American attack. 5 

General Gerow 1 s Plans for the 338th 

On the morning of 16 September 
General Gerow visited the 363d Infantry 

3 2d Bn, 338th Inf, and 338th Inf Unit Jnls, 15-16 
Sep 44; Combat Interv with Cole. 

4 403d FA Bn Mission Rpts, 15-16 Sep 44; 178th 
FA Gp and 423d FA Gp Mission Rpts, 15-16 Sep 44. 

5 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 15-16 Sep 44; 85th Div G-2 
and G-3 Jnls, 15-16 Sep 44; 91st Div G-3 Jnl, 15-16 
Sep 44; Strootman MS, Ch. III. See also Intervs 
with Strootman. 



204 



THREE BATTLES 



command post about 0800 and learned of 
the counterattacks that had delayed the 
363d's attack. The regiment still could 
not move. While he was at the CP, 
General Keyes, the II Corps commander, 
came forward and stated that he wanted 
the 85th and 91st Divisions to make a 
co-ordinated attack at once against 
Altuzzo and Monticelli. After four days 
of unsuccessful attacks, he was most 
anxious to capture the pass and complete 
the corps mission. 

General Mark W. Clark, the Fifth 
Army commander, had become even 
more impatient as each day passed with- 
out a break-through of the Gothic Line. 
After observing the successive failures of 
II Corps to crack the defenses in front of 
the Giogo Pass, Clark decided upon an 
envelopment on the right flank of the 
main effort. He ordered the 85th Divi- 
sion to commit its reserve regiment, the 
337th Infantry, against Monte Pratone, 
northeast of Monte Altuzzo. The attack 
was launched on the afternoon of 16 
September, only to bog down a thousand 
yards short of its objective. 

Though General Keyes had not ob- 
jected to General Clark's effort to out- 
flank the Giogo Pass defenses, the corps 
commander still expected the troops along 
Highway 6524 to make the main break- 
through. 6 To his request at the 363d 
Infantry CP for an immediate co-ordi- 
nated attack against Altuzzo and Monti- 
celli, however, General Gerow replied 
that the 363d was not yet ready or able 
to push up Monticelli. A co-ordinated 
attack, Gerow maintained, was therefore 
out of the question, but he would direct 



his 338th Infantry to proceed with its 
attack against Altuzzo. 

As he left the conference, General 
Gerow saw no solution but to give the 
338th Infantry the entire task. From the 
time General Gerow had commanded the 
338th Infantry during the training period 
in the States he had known its ranking 
officers well. Jackson had been his regi- 
mental adjutant and Cole, a battalion 
commander. Through intimate associa- 
tion in training and in combat, Gerow 
had formed a high estimate of both offi- 
cers, and felt that the two battalion com- 
manders could perform any mission 
assigned them. Gerow, however, had 
misgivings about Maj. Lysle Kelley, the 
3d Battalion commander, and felt that, 
with Kelley in command, he could not 
rely on the 3d Battalion to break the crust 
of German resistance on Monte Altuzzo. 
As for the 2d Battalion, deployed along 
Highway 6524, the pressure of time and 
the open terrain precluded its use in the 
main effort. 

Again, therefore, he decided to have 
_th£_Lsl__Battalion make the main effort. 



6 Interv with Col Robert W. Porter, II Corps 
DCofS, 30 Jun 50; 85th Div G-3 Jnl, 15-17 Sep 44; 
337th Inf Unit Jnl, 15-17 Sep 44. 



{Map 15) Despite the battering it had 
taken, (Jerow considered the unit ably 
commanded and still strong enough to 
seize the crest of Monte Altuzzo. He 
worked out in his mind the plan of 
attack: during the day Colonel Cole's 2d 
Battalion would push up the highway to 
locate enemy positions which might 
bring flanking fire against the main 
effort up the Altuzzo ridge, and under 
cover of darkness the 1st Battalion would 
resume the advance to seize Hill 926. 
Before dawn the next morning the 3d 
Battalion would pass through the 1st and 
seize the knob north of Hill 926. 7 



7 Combat Interv with Gerow; Interv with Gerow, 
3 Dec 48. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



205 




j a t\ \ / i \ a ^ 

H Daman 

MAP 15 



About 0900 General Gerow went to 
the CP of the 2d Battalion, 338th Infan- 
try, and ordered Colonel Cole to jump 
off as soon as possible, locate the enemy 
positions along the highway, and push 
up abreast of the 1st Battalion. Gerow 
envisioned the 2d Battalion advancing as 
far as possible without sustaining heavy 
casualties. If the 2d was unable to 
knock out enemy positions located, it was 
to call for artillery support to neutralize 
them. The battalion's assignment was 
tough, undramatic, and could be costly; 
its flanks would be exposed, and its route 
of advance lay over open terrain. 8 

The 2d Battalion Attack 

The 2d Battalion's attack up the high- 
way, beginning at noon, did not move 
8 Combat Intervs with Gerow and Cole^ 



far. Company F, which made the at- 
tack, spotted some machine gun positions 
and called for artillery fire but did not 
advance abreast of the 1st Battalion's 
positions on the main Altuzzo ridge. 9 
General Gerow became impatient for the 
decisive movement, the 1st Battalion's 
attack. He was most anxious for the 1st 
Battalion to reach its objective during the 
night and for the 3d to pass through the 
1st before dawn. Changing his previous 
orders, he told Colonel Jackson to push 
out before dark so that if he received fire 
from the left flank in the 2d Battalion 
zone Colonel Cole could knock out the 
enemy positions or pinpoint them with 
supporting fire. Despite the fact that 
the 1st Battalion had suffered numerous 
casualties, General Gerow felt that the 
battalion could take Hill 926; in any case, 
he knew that the 2d Battalion by its own 
efforts could never break through on the 
exposed highway until the two mountains 
on its flanks were secured. 

1st Battalion Prepares To Attack 

At 1450 General Gerow told Colonel 
Jackson that the 2d Battalion's advance 
had been stopped and suggested that the 
1st Battalion launch its attack at 1530. 
Although Colonel Jackson agreed, he 
found that the attack preparations re- 
quired more time than he had estimated 
and accordingly set H Hour back to 1 630. 
General Gerow's order called for the 1st 
Battalion to take the crest of Monte 
Altuzzo during the night and hold it 
until the 3d Battalion passed through. 
Then the 2d Battalion's Company E, 
reinforced, would move to the switch- 



9 Ibid.; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, AAR and Unit Jnl, 
Sep 44. 



206 



THREE BATTLES 



backs on the highway as Company F 
advanced along the left of the highway 
to Point 770. 1 ° 

Having received the attack order, 
Colonel Jackson arranged for supporting 
fires from the artillery, mortar, and direct- 
fire weapons. He arranged also for 
smoke to screen the daylight period of 
advance. The sectors to be screened in- 
cluded Monte Verruca on the right and 
the area along the highway on the left, 
for the weather was clear and observation 
excellent. For the new attack the artil- 
lery plan was to isolate the German 
infantry on Monte Altuzzo from resupply 
and reinforcement by concentrating max- 
imum fire on the higher slopes of the 
mountain mass in the vicinity of the 
Giogo Pass as far north as Rifredo. 
Medium artillery was to harass supply 
routes and destroy communications north 
of Monte Altuzzo. On the western 
slopes of the mountain, including the 
western ridge, the 105-mm. howitzers 
were to place time fire in the rocky, 
wooded areas to wipe out Germans in 
open positions or in process of moving 
into position. Once more the 8-inch 
guns and 240-mm. howitzers were to 
concentrate against the dug-in and pre- 
pared positions located on both ridges 
and the slope between them. The 81- 
mm. mortars of Company D and the at- 
tached 4.2-inch mortars were to fire on 
close targets that were masked from the 
artillery. 11 

Already during the morning the heavy 
artillery had scored with telling effect in 
counterbattery fires. Using a ground ob- 
servation post, a battalion of heavy corps 
artillery made three direct hits on a gun 

10 Combat Intervs with Gerow, Jackson, and Cole. 

11 Combat Intervs with Jackson and Farber. 



on Monte Castel Guerrino, 3,200 yards 
northwest of the Giogo Pass. This same 
battalion later fired on four heavy guns 
north of Firenzuola, scored two target 
hits, and had effect on all the guns. Ac- 
cording to the air observation post, an- 
other heavy battalion neutralized four 
enemy guns one mile southwest of Firen- 
zuola. In midafternoon, before the new 
attack was launched, the 178th Field 
Artillery Group fired a harassing mission 
in the draw between the Giogo Pass and 
Barco. Farther north along the Firen- 
zuola highway, harassing fire from a 
heavy corps battalion traversed the area 
from the pass to Rifredo and Puligno, 
one and one-half miles to the north. 

Twenty minutes before the 338th In- 
fantry's new attack jumped off, the 403d 
Field Artillery Battalion completed firing 
a preparation of ninety-four rounds on 
the peak of Altuzzo's western ridge. 
Then, from 1610 to 1715, the 403d 
screened the western peak and the slope 
along the highway to the west with 
nearly 600 rounds of smoke. At the same 
time the 1st Platoon, Company B, 84th 
Chemical Battalion, smoked the area 
from Hill 926 to the pass. During the 
first hour of the attack, the 403d Field 
Artillery Battalion also fired harassing 
missions on Altuzzo's western peak, the 
highway, and the north slopes of Monte 
Altuzzo between Hill 926 and the pass. 

On the night of 16 September, Com- 
pany B, 752d Tank Battalion, in support 
of the 338th Infantry, moved one platoon 
to the 339th Infantry's sector in order to 
have a better position from which to fire 
on Monte Altuzzo. The tanks were to 
open fire at daylight on 17 September. 
During 15 and 16 September, Company 
B, 310th Engineers, continued to main- 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



207 



tain supply routes to the 338th's bat- 
talions. 12 

For air support the 338th Infantry 
acted on information received the night 
before that on 16 September the close 
air support program would operate from 
1130 to 1330 and from 1430 to 1830. A 
few minutes before the 1st Battalion 
launched its attack, the 338th Infantry 
requested bombing missions against pill- 
boxes and other defenses at Gollinaccia, 
6,000 yards north-northeast of the Giogo 
Pass; gun positions at Moscheta, 4,500 
yards northeast of the pass; and mortars 
in a draw near Barco, about 1,600 yards 
northeast of Monte Altuzzo. An hour 
and a half later fighter bombers strafed 
and dropped four bombs in the area of 
the mortars. During 16 September the 
239th Wing attacked bivouac areas be- 
tween the Futa Pass and the Giogo Pass, 
and the 7th SAAF Wing bombed bivouac 
and defended areas near Puligno about 
3,000 yards north of the Giogo Pass. 13 

Last-Minute Instructions 

Because of the narrow route of ap- 
proach up the main ridge to the crest 
of Monte Altuzzo and the necessity for 
maintaining close contact in darkness, 
Colonel Jackson directed that his 1st 
Battalion's attack proceed in a column 
of platoons, designating Company C, 
which still had one fresh platoon, to 
make the principal effort. Behind Com- 
pany C the 3d Platoon of Company A 
was to follow; during the night another 

i*403d FA Bn, 423d FA Gp, and 178th FA Gp 
Mission Rpts, 16 Sep 44; 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 16 Sep 
44; 752d Tk Bn AAR, Sep 44; 310th Engr (C) Bn 
AAR, Daily Sit Rpt, and Unit Jnl, Sep 44. 

1» 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 15-16 Sep 44; MAAF Central 
Med Daily Operational Sum, 16 Sep 44. 



platoon of Company A was to swing to 
the left to secure Altuzzo's western ridge. 
Company A's 2d Platoon was to remain 
in battalion reserve on the slopes of Hill 
782, prepared to go as reinforcement to 
either the main or western ridge. The 
81 -mm. mortars and two heavy machine 
guns were to support the attack from 
their respective positions behind Paretaio 
Farmhouse and the top of Hill 624. 14 

Because of the casualties during the 
previous days, neither Company A nor 
Company C, even including weapons 
platoons and headquarters personnel, 
was at more than two- thirds normal 
strength. Instead of 120 men in its 
three rifle platoons, Company A had 
seventy-six men and Company C, seven- 
ty-two. Company A had borne the 
brunt of attacks on 1 3 and 1 5 September, 
although not more than one platoon of 
each company had been engaged in ac- 
tual fighting. During the attack of 15 
September, Company C's 2d Platoon, 
although still in reserve, had suffered 
many casualties from a mortar concen- 
tration. The two assault companies 
could count on no support from Com- 
pany B, which had sustained such heavy 
losses on 14 September on the western 
ridge that it was in no condition to make 
another major attack. 15 

Colonel Jackson left the co-ordination 
of the advance to Captain King and 
Lieutenant Souder, commanding Com- 
panies A and C, respectively. Each com- 
pany commander then planned his own 
attack formation. Company C was to 
advance in a column of platoons, the 

14 Combat Intervs with Jackson, Souder, and King. 

15 Ibid.; Combat Intervs with the following: 1st Lt 
Albert J. Krasman; 2d Lt Walter M. Strosnider and 
T Sgt Pat H. Hinton; Gresham, Van Home, Colo- 
simo-Grigsby-Albert, Corey, Thompson, and White. 



208 



THREE BATTLES 



fresh 3d Platoon leading. Following the 
3d was to be the section of light machine 
guns, the 2d Platoon, and the 1st. Cap- 
tain King of Company A ordered Lieu- 
tenant Holladay with the two squads 
left in his 3d Platoon to follow Com- 
pany C. He designated Sergeant Van 
Home to take the 1st Platoon, the 60- 
mm. mortar section, and the single ma- 
chine gun squad left in the Weapons 
Platoon to the western ridge. The 2d 
Platoon was to be in battalion reserve. 

In last-minute instructions to his pla- 
toon leaders, Lieutenant Souder outlined 
the disposition of his platoons when 
they should reach the crest of the moun- 
tain. The 2d Platoon, Company C, was 
to take up positions on the left and make 
patrol contact with Sergeant Van Home's 
1st Platoon, Company A, which would 
be on Altuzzo's western ridge; the 3d 
Platoon, Company C, was to be in the 
center on the peak of Hill 926; to its 
right was to be the 1st Platoon, Com- 
pany C, and the 3d Platoon, Company A. 
Although he had never had a close view 
of Hill 926, Souder believed that four 
platoons, all considerably understrength, 
could get abreast near the top of the 
south slope of Hill 926. After the 3d 
Battalion had passed through the 1st on 
Hill 926, the men of Company C could 
then come back down the mountain to 
the vicinity of the battalion CP, relax, 
reorganize, and eat a hot meal. 16 

Leader of Company C's 3d Platoon, 
which was to spearhead the attack, was 
2d Lt. Albert J. Krasman, a former pla- 
toon sergeant with a good deal of combat 
experience and an officer in whose lead- 
ership Lieutenant Souder had full con- 

16 Combat Intervs with Jackson, Souder, King, 
Van Home, Corey, Brumbaugh, Thompson, Kras- 
man, and Grigsby. 



fidence. At the beginning of the drive 
he had been an excess Company C officer 
at the regimental replacement pool in 
charge of approximately forty 1st Bat- 
talion replacements and had thus made 
no thorough map or intelligence studies. 
On 14 September when the company 
executive officer had been wounded by 
a shell fragment, the 3d Platoon leader 
had replaced him and Lieutenant Kras- 
man had been called to take command of 
the 3d Platoon. Although the lieutenant 
had seen no defense overlays of the enemy 
positions, he secured enough information 
from Lieutenant Corey and Sergeant 
Thompson of the 1st Platoon about the 
positions they had encountered on 15 
September to realize that in a new attack 
Company C could expect resistance at 
any point from halfway up the Altuzzo 
ridge to the crest. On the night of 15-16 
September, after Lieutenant Souder had 
been informed that Company C might 
have to bear the brunt of the next attack, 
Lieutenant Krasman was sent with a 
small patrol to reconnoiter 400 to 500 
yards in front of the company. He found 
a telephone wire which Company B had 
laid two nights before on the lower slopes 
of Hill 782 and followed it to the western 
ridge. There the patrol saw men of 
Company B who had been killed the day 
before and examined a bunker near the 
top of the western peak. Although 
Lieutenant Krasman searched several 
dead Germans, he found nothing of im- 
portance. From what he had seen him- 
self on this patrol and from what he had 
heard from others, he expected a tough 
struggle before he took Hill 926 and 
anticipated that his men would encoun- 
ter heavy cross fire from the left as they 
advanced up the main ridge. 17 

17 Combat Intervs with Krasman and Souder, 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



209 




The thirty men of Lieutenant Kras- 
man's 3d Platoon were generally in 
good physical condition as H Hour ap- 
proached. Most had had some combat 
experience) although only a handful had 
engaged previously in a hard fire fight; 
hence the men could scarcely imagine 
what a real attack would be like. Most 
of the noncommissioned officers and rifle- 
men were aggressive and in high spirits. 
Platoon Sgt. Richard E. Fent and S. Sgt. 
Walter M. Strosnider, the 1st Squad 
leader, who was to lead the point of the 
attack, were both intelligent, combat- 
wise, and full of courage. The morale of 



some 3d Platoon men had been somewhat 
depressed the day before by news that 
the 1st Platoon had sustained heavy 
Casualties from artillery fire, presumably 
American, and that the 2d Platoon, which 
had not even been engaged, had suffered 
almost as heavily from a German mortar 
concentration. Two men in the platoon 
became emotionally unfit for combat and 
did not join in the attack. 18 

In the other rifle platoons of Company 
C (the 1st and 2d), the survivors from 

18 Combat Intervs with Pfcs Alfred D. Lightner, 
Loman B. Pugh, Frank Bury, Paul Myshak, and 
John K. Britton; Strosnider, Hinton. 



210 



THREE BATTLES 



the previous day's attack still carried 
vivid impressions of what had happened 
then, but most were in good spirits and 
could stand a hard fight. Because of the 
previous casualties and the evacuation of 
a number of nervous exhaustion cases, 
the two platoons were far understrength, 
the 2d having eighteen men, the 1st, 
twenty-four. One squad of the 1st Pla- 
toon was sent by the company com- 
mander to bring the 2d Platoon up to 
greater strength, and the loss left the 
1st Platoon with only a single squad, 
the equivalent of one squad having pre- 
viously become casualties. 19 

In Company A morale was still high 
in the 1st and 3d Platoons, which were 
to participate in the new attack, but 
three days in the line had depleted ef- 
fective strength by almost half. More- 
over, what had happened to Company B 
on the western ridge on 14 September 
had inspired caution in Sergeant Van 
Home, who was to lead the 1st Platoon, 
Company A, to the western ridge. 20 

During the morning of 16 September, 
the 3d Platoon, Company C, pushed up 
the southwest slope of Hill 782 to a small 
stretch of level ground forty yards below 
the barbed wire, where it relieved a 
squad of the 1st Platoon, which had set 
up outposts the night before. There the 
men of the 3d Platoon dug slit trenches 
while awaiting the order to jump off. 
They received some mortar fire, restrict- 
ing movement but causing no casualties. 

As the attack hour drew near, the men 
of Company C had supplies for a limited 
time only. Each man had the normal 



19 Combat Intervs with White, Thompson, Orr, 
Brumbaugh, Corey, and all enlisted survivors in 1st 
Plat, Co C, 338th Inf. 

20 Combat Intervs with Van Home, South-Whary, 
and Grigsby. 



load of ammunition (one bandoleer of 
forty-eight rounds and one belt of eighty 
rounds), but hand grenades, which could 
be expected to be useful for close-in 
mountain fighting, were in short supply. 
Some men had lost or dropped grenades 
on the way to Hill 782; others had used 
them in the 15 September attack; and 
no resupply had been made. Although 
the 1st and 2d Platoons gave their re- 
maining grenades to the leading 3d Pla- 
toon, the 3d Platoon still had only about 
twenty-five. During the day of 16 Sep- 
tember refilling the water supply from 
Rocca Creek 300 yards to the rear was 
an arduous and slow process. Along the 
route artillery shells were falling through- 
out the day, and only a few men could 
get water at a time. Some were on out- 
post duty and could not go down to the 
creek, and because of the warm day the 
men drank more water than usual. They 
knew they were going to attack but did 
not know the jump-off time, and thus 
many did not go down at all for water. 
During the night K rations and a re- 
supply of ammunition were brought up 
by the 1st Battalion Ammunition and 
Pioneer Platoon, and each of Lieutenant 
Souder's men was issued a day's K 
ration. 

A few minutes before the attack was 
to begin, the enemy, from temporary 
outpost positions on the southwestern 
slope of Hill 782 near the ridge line, 
opened fire on Company C's 3d Platoon 
outposts. The men in the forward posi- 
tions withdrew a short distance down 
the hill while Platoon Sergeant Fent 
moved up to find out what had hap- 
pened. Fent could not find his outposts 
and surmised that they had been cap- 
tured. Keeping on past the small stretch 
of level ground where the outposts had 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



211 



been, he went several yards beyond the 
barbed wire, hid for a few moments be- 
hind a bush, and looked up the ridge. 
Spying a German soldier, Fent put his 
rifle to his shoulder and fired, but he 
could not tell whether he killed the Ger- 
man. Other Germans from positions on 
the slope above replied with small arms 
bursts, forcing the sergeant to return to 
his platoon. 21 

Capture of the Outpost Line 

A few minutes later, at 1630, the 1st 
Battalion jumped off up the southwest 
slope of Hill 782. In the lead the 3d 
Platoon, Company C, moved in a skir- 
mish line, two squads abreast, the 1st 
Squad on the left, the 2d on the right. 



{Map 16) The 3d Squad followed the 
1st in an open squad column and pro- 
tected the left flank. Although smoke 
shut off enemy observation from the 
crest of the mountain, the 3d Platoon's 
observation on Hill 782 was good, and 
Lieutenant Krasman's men could see as 
well as the steep, uneven slope permitted. 
They crossed the barbed wire through 
gaps cut in earlier attacks', and on the 
platoon's right flank the 2d Squad saw 
several dead soldiers from Company L, 
363d Infantry, with their equipment 
strewn near the entanglement. 

On the platoon's left flank, Sergeant 
Strosnider's 1st Squad had moved a few 
yards past the barbed wire when several 
German riflemen in trenches near the 
ridge line of Hill 782 opened fire. Their 
shots wounded Pfc. Albert W. Parker in 
the left ribs and raked the ground close 
to the rest of the men. As the squad hit 



21 Combat Intervs with the following: Lightner and 
Pfc Carl Schwantke; Thompson, Krasman, Hinton, 
Strosnider, Orr, White, and Lightner-Myshak. 



the ground, the center and right flank 
men fired back in the direction from 
which they thought the enemy fire was 
coming. At first they could locate no 
one, but as they strained their eyes for 
the enemy an Italian soldier from the 
slope above came down and surrendered. 
He said there had been a few Germans 
with him. 

The men of the 1st Squad began to 
crawl forward, only to be met by a bar- 
rage of hand grenades from the slope 
above them. About the same time a 
machine gun from the right front near 
the ridge line opened fire, kicking up 
dust at Sergeant Strosnider's feet. The 
sergeant shouted to the whole squad to 
throw hand grenades, and the men 
quickly tossed grenades up the slope 
toward where they thought the enemy 
to be. The BAR man, Pfc. Russell G. 
Elston, and his assistant, Pvt. Frank 
Bury, saw a single German in a patch 
of light brush to the front and fired at 
close range. Five Germans, eager to sur- 
render, were flushed out. They had been 
in hasty positions on the ridge line south 
of Hill 782. The German machine gun- 
ner, who had fired only one long burst, 
had evidently escaped up the ridge. Two 
enemy soldiers were killed and six cap- 
tured in the brief fire fight; the 1st Squad 
had one man wounded. 

On the 3d Platoon's right wing the 2d 
Squad had engaged the enemy outpost 
positions on the southeastern slope of 
Hill 782. Although smoke hung heavily 
over Monte Verruca to the east, as well 
as over the western ridge of Monte 
Altuzzo to the west, the squad could see 
clearly up the southwest slope of the 
main ridge. Shortly after the leading 
men had crossed the barbed wire, Ger- 
mans on the right front began to throw 




map m 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



213 



hand grenades and opened fire with 
rifles. As the men hit the ground, the 
squad leader, S. Sgt. Pat H. Hinton, sent 
forward the first scout, Pfc. Paul Myshak, 
to reconnoiter. Crawling to the ridge 
line about 150 yards below the peak of 
Hill 782, Myshak saw nothing except the 
outlines of Monte Verruca to the east. 
Moving back toward his squad, he spot- 
ted a trail leading to the left a few yards 
below the ridge line. On the slope below 
the trail, he saw a lone German lying on 
the ground with his rifle pointed down- 
hill. As the scout crept toward him, the 
German looked up; Myshak had him 
covered, and the German surrendered. 
Back with the 2d Squad, Pvt. Karl Adler 
quizzed the prisoner in German, elicit- 
ing information that two machine guns 
were on the right front just over the ridge 
line on the east slope of Hill 782. 

Platoon Sergeant Fent decided that 
with the 2d Squad he could knock out 
the two machine gun positions. He 
planned to move with two men of the 
squad to the right and then to the left 
toward the positions while Sergeant Hin- 
ton and the rest of the squad went to the 
left. Each group was to support the 
other with covering fire so that both 
could get near the enemy positions. 
While Sergeant Fent and his two men 
would try to knock out the machine 
guns, Sergeant Hinton and the main 
body of the squad would cover by fire, 
catching any Germans who tried to 
escape up the ridge. Taking with him 
Pfc. Walter W. Iverson, the automatic 
rifleman, and Pfc. Kermit C. Fisher, 
second scout, Sergeant Fent crawled to 
the right and over the ridge line. Before 
the three men knew it, they were almost 
face to face with two Germans who were 
in the first position and another who 



was lying beside it. It was camouflaged 
by bushes and harbored a machine gun. 
The two startled Germans jumped out 
of the position and ran to the left. The 
third man did not move so quickly, and, 
when Sergeant Fent motioned for him to 
get up, the German reached instead for 
his rifle. Fent fired point-blank, killing 
the German instantly, and moved then 
to investigate the other position. Ser- 
geant Hinton and the remainder of the 
squad had come up in a skirmish line 
about twenty yards to the left. With 
their arrival the other two Germans sur- 
rendered, and the squad damaged the 
two machine guns by denting the firing 
pins and housing with intrenching tools. 

Heading back with the prisoners below 
the ridge line to the western slope, the 
squad began to receive machine gun fire 
from Hill 624, where Company M's sup- 
porting machine guns were positioned. 
As soon as the fire was reported, it was 
stopped. By this time the 1st Squad had 
advanced to the north to a point where 
the route of approach up Hill 782 became 
very narrow, pinching out the 2d Squad. 
The 2d now followed the 1st. 22 

While the 2d Squad was taking the 
machine gun positions, Sergeant Stro- 
snider's 1st Squad, which had captured 
six prisoners after a grenade exchange, 
had paused to reorganize. Continuing 
forward again, the men turned left in a 
skirmish line and approached the rocks 
near the peak of Hill 782. As they neared 
the peak, the skirmish line became too ex- 
tended for the narrow approach and the 
men fell in behind Sergeant Strosnider in 
a single column. 

Straight ahead the men saw a bush- 
flanked rock slab facing downhill. Notic- 

JJ Combat Intervs with Krasman, Lightner, 
Schwantke, Strosnider, Hinton, and Bury, 



214 



THREE BATTLES 



ing something unnatural about the cam- 
ouflage around the rock, Sergeant Stro- 
snider looked closely and made out the 
muzzle of a machine gun pointing out 
over the slabs some ten yards away. 
Strangely, there was no fire from the 
position. After the squad leader heaved 
a grenade over the rock slab, there was 
still no sound or sign of life. Again 
Sergeant Strosnider threw a grenade; it 
did not explode. Assuming that the 
Germans were down behind the rocks, 
he drew back to get another grenade from 
his leading scout, Pfc. Carl Schwantke, 
and ran to the right of the position to 
throw it. Close behind the grenade's 
explosion Strosnider charged the position 
with his rifle at his hip. As he reached 
the rock slab and looked inside, he found 
that he had been tossing grenades at four 
enemy machine gunners, all dead. A 
small shell hole near the gun indicated 
that the crew had been killed by a mor- 
tar shell. 

Fire Fight at Knob 1 

Soon after the remainder of his 1st 
Squad had joined him, Sergeant Stro- 
snider spotted two Germans at the next 
rise on the ridge line to the north, Knob 1 . 
Both were walking south straight down 
the mountain. By this time the shadows 
had begun to lengthen and darkness was 
approaching. Thinking that the two 
Germans might need little urging to give 
up, Sergeant Strosnider directed Private 
Schwantke, who spoke German fluently, 
to shout to them to surrender. As 
Schwantke called out, the two Germans 
stopped dead in their tracks, for a mo- 
ment replying with neither words nor 
fire. Again Schwantke called out. One 
of the Germans dropped suddenly to the 



ground and fired two bursts from a 
machine pistol; the other merely stood 
erect with his rifle in his hands and kept 
staring down the ridge at the Americans. 
Sergeant Strosnider, Private Elston, and 
Pvt. Fred D. Mingus opened fire with 
M-l rifles and Pfc. Alfred D. Lightner 
with a carbine. The standing German 
slumped to the ground. 

During the shouting and firing, two or 
three more Germans had come along the 
higher western slope of the ridge to the 
top of Knob 1 . Schwantke and Lightner 
fired at them, while Sergeant Strosnider 
called for Pfc. Zemro F. Benner, rifle 
grenadier from the 2d Squad. Strosnider 
himself fired the rifle grenade and was 
certain that he hit one German. Two 
others on Knob 1 sprang up from the 
ground and ran back up the ridge line 
to the north. 

Strosnider called for the Weapons Pla- 
toon leader, Lieutenant Ritchey, to bring 
up a machine gun and rake the area. He 
wanted the machine gun to put overhead 
fire on and north of Knob 1 , from which 
the Germans had fled, while his rifle 
squad pushed on from Hill 782 to the 
knob. Lieutenant Ritchey, who with his 
machine gunners had followed closely be- 
hind the 3d Platoon, came up promptly. 
The lieutenant decided that overhead 
fire would fall too close to the advancing 
riflemen. Instead, after setting up his 
machine gun in the big rock slab at the 
peak of Hill 782, he ordered harassing 
fire on Knob 1, before the attack. 

Thus far the 3d Platoon had received 
no machine gun fire either from the two 
Altuzzo ridges or from Monte Verruca 
on the right. By this time the darkness 
had become too deep for the enemy to see 
the advancing men or to place accurate 
fire on them. While Lieutenant Ritchey 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



215 



fired the machine gun, the rest of the 
3d Platoon remained in single column be- 
hind the leading squad. Lieutenant 
Krasman, 3d Platoon leader, was among 
the rocks in the middle of the leading 
squad. The lieutenant had adopted this 
column of squads in single file after reach- 
ing Hill 782 because the narrow route up 
the ridge line prevented wider deploy- 
ment. He knew the formation would be 
useful for keeping contact between indi- 
viduals and squads and for protecting the 
platoon's flanks and rear so that the 
enemy could not encircle his troops. 

During the advance up Hill 782, a 3d 
Platoon runner had laid wire, and Lieu- 
tenant Krasman had a sound-powered 
telephone with him all the way. He used 
the telephone all night and during the 
next day, not having to employ his 
SCR 536. To the immediate rear of 
the 3d Platoon, the 2d Platoon stayed 
within visual contact. 23 

American Shell/ire 

After Lieutenant Ritchey had placed 
machine gun fire on Knob 1, the 3d Pla- 
toon (Company C) again moved out 
from Hill 782. At the head of the column 
were Private Schwantke, Private Light- 
ner, and Sergeant Strosnider, in that 
order. They had gone about fifty yards 
along the trail just below and west of the 
main Altuzzo ridge line when harassing 
fire from American supporting weapons 
— artillery, tanks, or tank destroyers — 
began to fall about fifty yards to the front. 
Strosnider and his scouts stopped, afraid 
to continue up the ridge in the face of 
this fire. The sergeant sent word back 
to Lieutenant Krasman, who was several 



spaces to the rear in the 3d Platoon col- 
umn, and the lieutenant relayed the mes- 
sage to the company commander, who 
promised to have the fire lifted. The 
shells continued to land near the leading 
3d Platoon men, who had stopped in a 
saddle on the main ridge line between 
Knob 1 and the next rise, Knob 2, at 
a point where the trail turned to the left 
around the west slope of Knob 2. The 
shells were landing close to the rock-hewn 
positions of the enemy MLR on Knob 2, 
positions which Sergeant Strosnider's 
men had not yet located. 

As the American shells continued to 
fall and one of his men was slightly 
wounded by a fragment, Sergeant Stro- 
snider went back himself to Lieutenant 
Krasman and insisted that his squad 
could not advance until the fire was 
lifted. The lieutenant again called Lieu- 
tenant Souder and was again promised 
relief. Fearing a repetition of the 1st 
Platoon's unhappy experience of the day 
before, Krasman held up his platoon for 
more than an hour to make sure that the 
shellfire had stopped. He guessed that 
it was only harassing fire, which might 
mean that more rounds would land at 
any time. 24 

As soon as the shelling report was re- 
ceived at the 1st Battalion CP, Colonel 
Jackson promised to have the fire lifted 
and ordered the 3d Platoon, Company C, 
to wait until he called back before resum- 
ing the advance. The 329th Field Artil- 
lery liaison officer, Lieutenant Farber, 
checked division and corps artillery with- 
out being able to find the unit which had 
fired or even the direction from which it 
was firing. When this search failed, all 
artillery in the II Corps was ordered to 



23 Combat Intervs with Ritchey, Strosnider, Light, 
ner, Bury, Krasman, White, and Brumbaugh. 



2i Combat Intervs with Krasman, Lightner, 
Schwantke, Strosnider, and Souder. 



216 



THREE BATTLES 



cease firing for half an hour in the Altuzzo 
area and 1,000 yards on either side of 
the main Altuzzo ridge line. 

After the no-fire interval, Colonel 
Jackson reported at 0125 to the 338th In- 
fantry that artillery was still firing in the 
area where his men were advancing, He 
believed it came from the rear and at 
about half-hour intervals. After this re- 
port, the artillery no-fire line was pushed 
from the crest of Monte Altuzzo 1,000 
yards to the north. When no additional 
fire came in, Colonel Jackson ordered 
Company C to push on up the mountain. 
The time then was approximately 0200. 25 

1st Squad at Knob 2 

As the leading squad of Company C's 
3d Platoon again moved forward, Ser- 
geant Strosnider and his two scouts heard 
the sound of German voices to the front. 
Warning his men that they were nearing 
the enemy positions, the sergeant in- 
structed them to move quietly and to use 
grenades and rifles as a last resort. The 
night was so dark that the men did not 
have to crawl in order to keep their ap- 
proach screened. Advancing slowly for- 
ward in a crouch and straining their eyes 
for the enemy, the men proceeded in sin- 
gle file from Knob 1 up the forward slope 
of Knob 2. In the lead and so close to- 
gether that they touched each other were 
Privates Schwantke and Lightner and 
Sergeant Strosnider. Coming closer to 
where they thought they had heard Ger- 
man voices, they dropped to their hands 
and knees and crawled over the brush- 
covered slope a few feet to the left of the 
ridge line. 

Schwantke and Lightner suddenly 

25 Combat Intervs with Jackson, Krasman, and 
Farber; 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 16-17 Sep 44. 



found themselves almost under the nose 
of a German machine gun sticking from 
a pile of rocks. No sign of life came from 
within the position. Sergeant Strosnider 
joined the two men. On the way up he 
had heard whisperings over on his left, 
but the night was too dark to determine 
the source. The cover of darkness had 
enabled the leading men of Company C 
to advance to the main German positions 
on Knob 2 without being discovered. 
Nor did the Americans discover the en- 
emy positions until they had almost 
stumbled over them. 

Strosnider whispered for Schwantke to 
toss a grenade behind the rocks and for 
Lightner to go to the right of the rocks 
to protect the flank. When Schwantke 
pulled the pin and threw his grenade, its 
explosion brought a howl from a German 
in a big hole a few feet away, directly 
behind the machine gun and the piled 
rocks. Another German, who evidently 
had been manning the weapon but had 
not detected the American's approach, 
cradled the machine gun and dashed up 
the ridge about ten yards to the higher 
and rockier part of Knob 2. As he fled, 
Private Lightner bounded after him and 
captured him just as the German was 
setting up the gun to fire. About the 
same time a machine pistol opened up 
from straight ahead on the higher part of 
Knob 2. Private Schwantke fired one 
burst in that direction but stopped when 
Sergeant Strosnider told him to use a 
grenade instead. After he threw a 
grenade, the machine pistol ceased fire. 

Sergeant Strosnider heard noises to 
the left of the piled stones and tossed a 
grenade in that direction. Although he 
could not see anyone, he heard one Ger- 
man cry out in pain while another ran. 
The two had been in slit trenches fifteen 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



217 



yards below and to the west of a big 
square hole in the center of Knob 2's 
ridge line. Following the explosion of 
Sergeant Strosnider's grenade, Private 
Schwantke called out to the Germans 
that they would be safe if they would 
come out with their hands up. One Ger- 
man asked who was calling. Schwantke 
replied that the Americans were all 
around them; they had better surrender. 
When a group of Germans fled up the 
west slope of the mountain to the left of 
the main positions, Schwantke called out 
again that the Americans had them sur- 
rounded and it was futile to try to escape. 
From below, on the upper western slope 
of Knob 2, the Germans answered, and 
eleven returned to give themselves up. 
Strosnider, Schwantke, and Lightner had 
surprised the enemy and seized three po- 
sitions on Knob 2, had killed or captured 
several Germans, and had driven the 
rest from the MLR. These prepared 
positions were the last German defenses 
to the north except the bunkers and ob- 
servation posts on the crest of Hill 926. 
But to the northwest along the wooded 
upper slopes of the Altuzzo bowl the 
enemy still manned positions behind tall 
rock slabs. 26 

Soon after the capture of the Germans, 
an enemy machine gun from somewhere 
in the woods to the left front opened fire 
and then suddenly stopped. Private 
Schwantke called to the German crew to 
surrender, and Lieutenant Krasman or- 
dered all men in the platoon to fire if 
the machine gun opened up again. 
When it did, the 3d Platoon returned the 
fire until abruptly the German weapon 
ceased. Presumably it had been knocked 



out or the 3d Platoon's fire was too heavy 
for the enemy to continue the exchange. 

After placing two guards at the big 
hole on Knob 2 to watch the eleven Ger- 
man prisoners, Lieutenant Krasman or- 
dered the platoon to resume its advance 
to the crest of the mountain. The fire 
fight on Hill 782, the exchanges with the 
enemy on Knob 1, the delay caused by 
American shellfire, and the capture of 
the three positions on Knob 2 in the 
enemy MLR had all taken time. When 
Company C's 3d Platoon jumped off 
again, it must have been at least 0300. 27 

Advance to the Crest 

Starting forward, Company C's 3d 
Platoon moved from Knob 2 on the slope 
to the left of the big hole. Still in the 
lead, Sergeant Strosnider's 1st Squad 
walked along a path that ran ten to fif- 
teen yards to the left of the ridge line on 
the west slope of Knob 2. The squad 
came next to an east-west trail where it 
crossed the main ridge line at the lower 
end of a rock escarpment leading straight 
up to the peak, Hill 926. 

Climbing a few yards up the steep 
rocks of the escarpment, the men of the 
leading squad could see that the ground 
was much higher on their right front and 
an advance straight up the ridge line 
would only silhouette them as they 
climbed. On the left the slope, although 
steep, was more gradual, and the ad- 
vantages of defiladed and easier approach 
through heavy brush and trees prompted 
Sergeant Strosnider to turn his men to 
the left of the rock escarpment. Moving 
across the rocks to a little draw west of 



26 Combat Intervs with Lightner-Schwantke, 
Lightner, and Strosnider; Notes of terrain recon- 
naissance with Krasman and Strosnider, 21 Dec 44. 



27 Combat Intervs with all enlisted survivors in 3d 
Plat, Co C, 338th Inf, Apr 45, and with Lightner- 
Schwantke, Krasman, and Strosnider. 



218 



THREE BATTLES 




the escarpment, the men reached cov- 
ered ground on a finger to the southwest 
of Hill 926. The heavy underbrush 
on this finger made progress difficult, 
and after advancing about a hundred 
yards the 1st Squad took a short rest 
at a charcoal clearing to enable the other 
two squads to catch up. At the rear of 
the column near the east-west trail, a roll 
of telephone wire got out of control of 
the man who was carrying it and rolled 
down the east slope of the main ridge; a 
new roll was brought up and wire laid 



along the route the leading squad had 
taken. 

Its short rest over, the 3d Platoon 
pushed on toward Hill 926. Initially 
the route was steep, rocky, and wooded. 
The underbrush was thick except for the 
last fifty yards, where the southern slope 
of the peak was pock-marked with shell 
holes and bomb craters. Passing large 
rocks and brush and then through a stand 
of large pine trees sheared to uneven 
lengths by artillery fire, the men at last 
emerged on the bare southern slope of 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



219 



Hill 926, the long-sought crest of Monte 
Altuzzo. 

Defensive Arrangements 

Coming to a zigzag trench on the west 
side of Hill 926, the three leading men 
in the 3d Platoon, Private Schwantke, 
Private Lightner, and Sergeant Stro- 
snider, turned right to a big crater that 
had once been a German observation 
post. They stopped there only a moment 
and then walked a few yards up the slope 
until they reached the top of the peak. 
Though dawn was fast approaching, it 
was still dark; when they heard voices 
close by to the front, they could not locate 
the source. The sounds actually came 
from a bunker a few feet away, half un- 
derground, and dug into the crest of Hill 
926, but Sergeant Strosnider and his 
scouts did not discover that until later. 28 

Although a few of the leading men 
began to dig in, word came up the line 
for them to withdraw and dig in on the 
southern slope of the hill. As soon as 
they had moved back a few yards from 
the top of the peak to the southern slope, 
Lieutenant Krasman, the 3d Platoon 
leader, approached Sergeant Strosnider 
and asked why he had withdrawn. Ser- 
geant Strosnider explained about the 
voices and the message. 

While Sergeant Strosnider had been 
at the top of the hill, Lieutenant Krasman 
and Lieutenant Ritchey, the Weapons 
Platoon leader, had disagreed about 
where Company C should take up posi- 
tions. Krasman wanted to occupy the 
exact crest of the mountain; Ritchey 
thought a better defense could be set 

28 Combat Intervs with Krasman, Strosnider, Bury, 
and Lightner. 



up by withdrawing slightly and digging 
in on the south slope. 29 It is possible 
that some members of the 3d Platoon, 
hearing the discussion between the two 
officers, passed the message forward for 
the leading men to withdraw. Krasman 
called Lieutenant Souder, reported that 
the 3d Platoon was on the crest of Monte 
Altuzzo, and asked what defense should 
be set up. When Souder asked if he 
were sure of his location, Krasman as- 
sured him there was no doubt. Ordering 
his platoon leader to put out security, 
the Company C commander promised to 
check with Colonel Jackson and call 
back. 3 <> 

Aware that 17 September was the bat- 
talion commander's birthday, Lieutenant 
Souder called Colonel Jackson and said, 
"Colonel, I've got a birthday present for 
you. We've captured Mount Altuzzo." 
Remembering vividly that, three days 
before, Captain Peabody had been equal- 
ly sure Company B was on the crest of 
Monte Altuzzo, Colonel Jackson was 
dubious. But Souder insisted that Kras- 
man was certain of his location. Reas- 
sured that finally his troops had gained 
the objective for which they had been 
fighting for four days, Colonel Jackson 
ordered Company C to set up a rear- 
slope defense at the southern end of Hill 
926 and hold it until the 3d Battalion 
passed through. 31 

2d Platoon Follows to Hill 926 

While Company C's 3d Platoon had 
been advancing to Hill 926, the other 

29 Combat Intervs with Strosnider, Hinton, and 
Ritchey. 

30 Ibid.; Combat Intervs with Krasman and 
Souder. 

31 Combat Intervs with Jackson and Souder. 



220 



THREE BATTLES 



units in the 1st Battalion column — ex- 
cept Company C's 1st Platoon — had 
stayed within contact distance all the 
way up the ridge but had taken no part 
in the action. Directly behind the 3d 
Platoon, the leading man of Company 
C's 2d Platoon had stayed close enough 
to touch the last man in the 3d Platoon. 
Only once during the night had the 2d 
lost contact, just after the 3d Platoon had 
seized the main enemy defenses on 
Knob 2 and had started up toward the 
crest of Hill 926. The platoon sergeant 
had then followed the wire laid by the 
leading platoon until contact was re- 
gained. 32 The machine gun section of 
Company C followed the 2d Platoon and 
was in turn followed by two squads from 
the 3d Platoon, Company A, commanded 
by Lieutenant Holladay. In this Com- 
pany A platoon were Sgt. Gordon K. 
Grigsby's squad of ten men and another 
squad of eight men led by Private Albert. 
Four men from the platoon took over 
from Company C the task of guarding 
the prisoners at the big hole on Knob 2. 33 
At the start of the attack one squad of 
the 1st Platoon, Company C, had been 
attached to the rear of Company C's 2d 
Platoon. The remaining squad of the 
1st Platoon stayed with Lieutenant Corey 
and protected the right flank of Com- 
pany C on the eastern slope of Hill 782. 
On the way up the mountain the leader 
of Company C's 2d Platoon had heard 
noises and movement on the flanks and 
had passed word down to Lieutenant 
Holladay (3d Platoon, Company A) to 
put out security on both flanks. Having 
heard noises himself, Holladay told the 



32 Combat Intervs with White and Brumbaugh. 

43 Combat Intervs with the following: Ritchey and 
Colosimo-Grigsby-Albert; Albert; T Sgt Dale E. 
Burkholder. 



platoon guide of the 2d Platoon, Corn- 
pany C, S. Sgt. Robert W. Kistner, Jr., 
who was with the attached squad from 
the 1st Platoon, Company C, to move 
out as rear security for the column. In 
the movement to the rear of the column 
Kistner and the squad lost contact. 
When they reached a point just north 
of Knob 2 where the telephone wire 
forked, one strand going to the left and 
another to the right, they were unable 
to decide which wire to take. Afraid 
that if they advanced on a route different 
from Company C's 3d and 2d Platoons, 
they would be mistaken for Germans, 
Sergeant Kistner and Sergeant Price, the 
squad leader, decided to hold where 
they were. Not long afterward the squad 
was joined by the rest of the 1st Platoon, 
Company C- — one squad — under Lieu- 
tenant Corey, the squad which initially 
had been used to guard the right flank on 
Hill 782. Corey had also come forward 
by following the telephone wire. Thus 
the understrength 1st Platoon was now 
back together at the east-west trail at 
the north end of Knob 2. The sound of 
digging reached the platoon from the left 
not far away, and in the belief that it 
might be coming from the 2d and 3d 
Platoons, which he knew were somewhere 
ahead, Lieutenant Corey called out. The 
digging stopped and all was quiet. 

In order to prevent interception of his 
radio transmissions by whoever had been 
digging, Corey pulled his two squads 
back about fifty yards. He then tried to 
reach Lieutenant Krasman on the SCR 
536 to ask for guides to lead his men up 
Hill 926. Failing, he radioed the com- 
pany commander, who relayed his re- 
quest. Krasman sent guides promptly 
for both the 1st Platoon and the 3d Bat- 
talion, whose leading men were just to 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



221 



Corey's rear. Within half an hour six 
guides from Hill 926 arrived. Dropping 
off Pfc. Charles F. Gregory as guide for 
the 1st Platoon, the other five continued 
down the ridge to the companies of the 
3d Battalion. 

1st Platoon's Advance 

With Private Gregory at the head, the 
1st Platoon (Company C) moved out 
again from Knob 2 up the Altuzzo ridge. 
To the guide's rear in single file came 
Lieutenant Corey, the 1st Platoon leader; 
Sergeant Kistner, the 2d Platoon guide; 
and the rest of the 1st Platoon. The first 
five men advanced twenty-five yards past 
the east-west trail up the rocks and into a 
little draw directly west of the escarp- 
ment on the ridge line. At that point 
the enemy opened up with hand grenades 
and a machine gun from the front and 
left on the west side of the draw not more 
than a hundred yards away. The rest of 
the 1st Platoon was east of the rock es- 
carpment. One of the first shots killed 
Private Gregory, and the other men hit 
the ground. The night was still dark. 
Unable to go back and rejoin the rest of 
the platoon because of the exposed ter- 
rain, Lieutenant Corey and Sergeant 
Kistner followed the telephone wire laid 
by Company C's 3d Platoon. The other 
two men who had entered the draw with 
them climbed up over the rocks on the 
main ridge line to the right. 

The rest of the 1st Platoon — less than 
one squad — opened fire with BAR's and 
rifles from the rocks on the right of the 
draw. After a few minutes of this return 
fire, the German resistance ceased. Re- 
organizing, the little group from the 1st 
Platoon, minus Lieutenant Corey and 
Sergeant Kistner, who had followed the 



telephone wire on ahead, moved east of 
the rock escarpment and pushed on to 
the crest of the mountain. 34 

After the three rifle platoons and the 
machine gun section of Company C, re- 
inforced by two understrength squads of 
Company A, reached the southern slope 
of Hill 926, they set up a rear-slope de- 
fense in accordance with Colonel Jack- 
son's order, and Lieutenant Krasman 
disposed the men as Lieutenant Souder 
had directed. The 2d Platoon, which 
had the equivalent of two understrength 
squads, took up positions on the left flank. 
In the center was the 3d Platoon, which 
set up three outposts, one in the left zig- 
zag trench, one in the center, and one on 
the right near the crest of Hill 926. Lieu- 
tenant Ritchey, the Weapons Platoon 
leader, placed his one light machine gun 
twenty yards to the right rear of the rifle 
platoons in a position that could cover 
the right rear and flank. On the right 
flank the defense was manned by the 
handful of men from the 1st Platoon, 
Company C, and the two squads from 
the 3d Platoon, Company A. The 60- 
mm. mortar section of Company C and 
the two machine guns of Company D 
were still in position on Hill 624. 35 

Advance up the Western Ridge 

While Company C, reinforced by two 
squads from Company A, had been ad- 
vancing to occupy the crest of the moun- 
tain, Hill 926, the 1st Platoon, Company 
A, had moved from Hill 782 to Altuzzo's 
western ridge. Starting out about dusk 
while the leading elements of Company C 



34 Combat Intervs with Corey, Thompson, Kistner, 
Marx, Markey, and Orr. 

35 Combat Intervs with Krasman, Souder, Ritchey, 
and Burkholder. 



222 



THREE BATTLES 



were at the top of Hill 782, Sergeant 
Van Home, acting platoon leader, led 
the twenty-two men of his platoon as the 
attached units followed. These con- 
sisted of a light machine gun squad, a 
60-mm. mortar squad, and several wire- 
men who laid telephone wire along the 
route of march. The total force num- 
bered some thirty men. They moved in a 
column of squads, the 3d Squad forward. 
Leaving their foxholes on the lower south- 
west slope of Hill 782 just north of 
la Rocca, they moved across the open 
space at the base of the bowl to the lower 
end of the western ridge. Then, going 
seventy-five to a hundred yards from the 
ridge line on the east slope of the western 
ridge, they encountered occasional mor- 
tar fire until they reached the barbed 
wire entanglement. The only casualty 
was S. Sgt. William Nowakowski, a rifle 
squad leader, who was wounded by a 
mortar shell. 

When Sergeant Van Home at the head 
of the column reached the barbed wire, 
he halted the men while he searched for 
trip wires. Because of the depth of the 
entanglement at this spot, Van Home 
moved to the right, only to find more 
barbed wire in even greater depth. 
Crossing the wire without further search, 
the platoon continued up the ridge with- 
out drawing enemy fire. About twenty 
yards east of the ridge line, the men 
climbed in single file over rocks up the 
steep slope until they came within fifty 
yards of the western ridge's rocky peak. 
The early morning was still so dark that 
the men could see only a few yards ahead. 

Sergeant Van Home did not yet know 
what progress Company C had made and 
had heard no sounds which might indi- 
cate that Hill 926 had been taken. 
Cautious, in view of Company B's experi- 



ence on the same ridge three days before, 
he directed his men to dig in and wait 
until dawn when he could see and deter- 
mine how to get up to the peak. Al- 
though Van Home's force was merely 
to protect the left flank of the 1st Bat- 
talion's main attack force, throughout 
the night he and his men kept thinking 
that they had been given the mission of 
taking an objective which a whole com- 
pany three days before had been unable 
to take and hold. 

While the troops were still digging in 
fifty yards south of the western ridge's 
peak, two bursts of machine gun fire from 
the main Altuzzo ridge in the vicinity of 
the enemy's MLR "hit about fifty yards 
to their rear. The men did not return 
the fire but waited for dawn and word 
that Company C had occupied the crest 
of Monte Altuzzo. 36 

Bypassed Pockets 

During the advance of the main body 
of the 1st Battalion to Hill 926, the 3d 
Battalion had waited until Colonel Jack- 
son's leading troops had reached their 
objective before advancing from Hill 782. 
About 0315 Company K, in the lead, 
was notified of the 1st Battalion's success 
and ordered to follow the telephone wire 
up the slopes of Altuzzo until it met the 
guides sent down from the crest. Com- 
panies L and I were to follow in that 
order. 

Moving in single file, Company K 
crossed the barbed wire on the southwest 
slope of Hill 782 and before daylight ad- 
vanced to Knob 1, some 300 yards short 
of Hill 926. When the company reached 
the east-west trail which crossed the ridge 

M Combat Intervs with the following: Kohler and 
S Sgt James F, Reid; Van Horne and South- Whary. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



223 



line just north of Knob 2 and 250 yards 
south of the peak, it came under small 
arms fire from the left front around the 
top of the Altuzzo bowl. Not certain 
that it was German fire, the company 
commander did not permit his men to 
fire back, but directed them to find cover 
on the right among the rocks beyond 
Knob 2. Company L, following with 
the rest of the 3d Battalion, lost contact. 
Well after dawn the leading elements of 
the 3d Battalion were still 200 yards short 
of the 1st Battalion on Hill 926. 37 

Daylight of 17 September thus found 
the 1st Battalion, 338th Infantry, on its 
objective, the crest of Monte Altuzzo, and 
the 3d Battalion strung out behind it on 
the main Altuzzo ridge subject to enemy 
fire from bypassed Germans along the 
top of the Altuzzo bowl to the west and 
Monte Verruca to the east. Besides the 
German troops who remained to be 
cleared from this area, other small groups 
were in the bunkers on the crest of Monte 
Altuzzo and on the knob north of Hill 926 
in position to counterattack. Although 
much hard fighting still lay ahead before 
all German resistance in front of the 
Giogo Pass could be overcome, large gains 
had been made. Slowed by enemy re- 
sistance and shellfire, presumably Amer- 
ican, Company C had nevertheless 
knocked out the defenses on Hill 782 and 
Knob 2 and had killed, captured, or 
driven back the forces manning the MLR 
on the main ridge. After this success, 
the bulk of the 1st Battalion had infil- 
trated under cover of darkness past the 
other rifle and machine gun positions 
around the bowl and the western peak to 



37 Combat Intervs with the following: 1st Lt Mack 
L. Brooks and T Sgt Willie L. Kingsley; Maj Lysle 
B. Kelley and Souder. See also 3d Bn, 338th Inf, 
Unit Jnl and 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 16-17 Sep 44. 



the crest of Monte Altuzzo. Colonel 
Jackson's force of barely a hundred men 
had seized the main Fifth Army objective 
and made the first penetration of the 
Gothic Line in the zone of the planned 
break-through. 

The fact that the 1st Battalion advance 
had been slower than anticipated de- 
layed the 3d Battalion's approach march. 
Two of its companies lost contact with 
each other, and the battalion failed to 
push forward aggressively. As a result, 
the 3d Battalion, which General Gerow 
had ordered to pass through the 1st 
Battalion at dawn, was not in position to 
exploit the success of Jackson's assault 
force. Gains elsewhere in front of Giogo 
Pass by the 2d Battalion, 338th Infantry, 
and the 363d Infantry, on the left, and 
the 339th Infantry, on the right, had been 
negligible. 38 

The Enemy Situation 

By the time that the 1st Battalion, 
338th, launched its attack late on 16 
September, enemy reserves available for 
defense of the Giogo Pass had been 
seriously depleted. The 1st Battalion of 
the 12th Parachute Regiment radioed its 
lower units on Monte Altuzzo that the 
American attack had to be held at all 
costs because no more reserves could be 
sent. A loose chain of outposts was to 
be established that night to give warning 
of the attack. 39 

Besides small elements of the 4th Para- 
chute Division and a Lithuanian labor bat- 

38 Combat Interv with Cole; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, 
AAR and Unit Jnls and 339th Inf AAR and Unit 
Jnls, 16-17 Sep 44; Strootman MS; 91st Div G-3 
Jnl, 16-17 Sep 44. 

39 338th IPW Rpts and Intel Sums, 16-18 Sep 44; 
85th Div G-2 Jnl and Rpts, 16-18 Sep 44; 338th Inf 
Unit Jnl, 16-18 Sep 44. 



224 



THREE BATTLES 



talion, which could not be relied upon, 
the only unit available was the Grenadier 
Lehr Brigade, the / Parachute Corps reserve, 
which was still on the way to the pass 
sector and would not be free much longer. 
For the defense of the Giogo Pass area, 
Generalleutnant Richard Heidrich, the 
/ Parachute Corps commander, considered 
essential the retention of the Lehr Brigade 
for three or four more days. Heidrich's 
need for his reserve was outweighed by 
the desire of the Army Group C commander, 
Field Marshal Kesselring, to use it to 
reinforce Tenth Army on the Adriatic 
coast. Kesselring in fact had agreed to 
leave the 16th SS Panzer Grenadier Division 
with Fourteenth Army only on the condition 
that the Lehr Brigade would be sent to 
Tenth Army on the nights of 18-19 and 
1 9-20 September. Because of the Allied 
pressure on the Adriatic coast, Kesselring 
warned Fourteenth Army that the Lehr 
Brigade had to go to Tenth Army on 
schedule. Fourteenth Army accordingly 
directed the / Parachute Corps to put the 
Lehr Brigade in position where it could be 
disengaged quickly. 40 

During the night of 16 September 
more replacements were sent into the 
12th Parachute Regiment's sector. Ob- 
viously throwing in any troops that could 
be spared from other areas or the rear, 
the enemy committed small units piece- 
meal. At 2300 a machine gun platoon 
of about twenty-five men who had just 
come from a battle school at Cucciano 
joined the Monte Altuzzo defenses with 
three heavy machine guns. During the 
day both battalions of the Grenadier Lehr 
Brigade — except the horse-drawn ele- 
ments — had arrived at the / Parachute 
Corps, and that night the 2d Battalion of 



« Entry of 16 Sep 44, Fourteenth Army KTB 4. 



the brigade moved into position on 
Monte Verruca and Monte Altuzzo, 
arriving about the same time that the 1st 
Battalion, 338th Infantry, was pushing 
up the mountain. From a large group 
of 360 to 430 Lithuanians who had come 
from Southern France, approximately 
seventy-five replacements went into the 
Altuzzo sector the night of 16-17 Sep- 
tember, twenty men going to each com- 
pany of the 1st Battalion, 12th Regiment. 
Although the Germans watched the 
Lithuanians closely, about forty of them 
took the advice of their Lithuanian lieu- 
tenant to desert at the first chance. 

Against movement of replacements to 
forward positions, American artillery was 
most effective. One group of thirty- 
three replacements, for example, had 
thirteen casualties on the way from Firen- 
zuola to positions in front of the Giogo 
Pass. Prisoners captured from the 6th 
Company, Grenadier Lehr Brigade, said the 
heavy artillery fire demoralized their 
unit and inflicted heavy casualties as it 
moved into position on Monte Altuzzo 
during early morning of 17 September. 
According to the daily report of the 
Fourteenth Army on 16-17 September, 
American artillery, supported by unre- 
mitting attacks of Allied planes, was so 
heavy that on the east flank forward ele- 
ments of the Grenadier Lehr Brigade nego- 
tiated the last kilometer to the front line 
only by crawling forward in small 
groups. 41 

Late in the afternoon of 16 September 
a battalion of the 178th Field Artillery 
Group fired thirty-two rounds at an 
estimated twenty-five to forty German 



n 338th Inf IPW Rpts, Intel Sums, and Unit Jnl, 
16-18 Sep 44; 85th Div G-2 Jnl and G-2 Rpts, 16-18 
Sep 44; Entries of 16-17 Sep 44, Fourteenth Army 
KTB 4. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



225 



troops along the Firenzuola highway 
northeast of the Giogo Pass, and the air 
observation post reported good coverage 
of the target area. The 403d Field 
Artillery Battalion reported it had caught 
approximately twenty-five Germans in 
the open 1,200 yards north of the pass 
and wiped them out with 108 rounds. 
During the evening, as 200 Germans 
moved south of Firenzuola, they were 
brought under artillery fire with unde- 
termined results. Just before midnight 
another battalion of the 178th Field 
Artillery Group fired three unobserved 
TOT missions on Monte Verruca, Pian 
di Giogo, and the slopes along the high- 
way between Monticelli and Monte 
Altuzzo. 

From 2100 to 0500 a battalion of the 
178th Field Artillery Group put forty 
rounds of unobserved harassing fire on 
suspected enemy artillery positions in the 
vicinity of Molinuccio. During the 
night another battalion fired on enemy 
guns along the highway north of the pass 
and in the vicinity of Rifredo. The 
heavy guns of the corps artillery placed 
harassing and TOT fire on selected areas 
along the highway. The 403d Field 
Artillery Battalion fired twenty-eight 
harassing and nine TOT missions on 



areas around the pass as far away as 
Barco and Rifredo, and the 329th Field 
Artillery Battalion fired numerous ob- 
served missions on enemy pillboxes, 
mortars, and personnel. 

About dawn on 17 September Colonel 
Jackson (1st Battalion, 338th) reported 
a general enemy withdrawal across his 
front, 42 but the report was premature. 
His troops had breached the enemy's 
main line of resistance and occupied 
positions in its rear, but the Germans still 
held on to main defenses along the upper 
part of the bowl, and the infiltration past 
these defenses had not caused the enemy 
to make wholesale withdrawals. Al- 
though weakened by four days of fighting, 
the enemy still intended to hold Monte 
Altuzzo by committing additional rein- 
forcements. From radio intercepts the 
338th Infantry learned that remnants of 
the 3d Battalion, 12th Parachute Regiment, 
which had been relieved by the Lehr 
Brigade at 0300, would be sent to reinforce 
the 2d Battalion on Monticelli and the 1st 
Battalion on Monte Altuzzo. 43 

« 338th InfUnitJnl, 1 7 Sep 44; 403d FA Bn, 178th 
FA Gp, and 423d FA Gp Mission Rpts, 16-17 Sep 
44; 329th FA Bn Unit Jnl, 16-17 Sep 44. 

43 Entry of 17 Sep 44, Fourteenth Army KTB 4; 
338th Inf Intel Sums and Unit Jnl, 17 Sep 44; 85th 
Div G-2 Rpt and G-2 Jnl, 1 7 Sep 44. 



CHAPTER V 



Counterattacks 

(17 September) 



On Hill 926 the Germans had observa- 



MAP 17 

forcements and counterattacking forces. 
{Map 77) A few yards south of the crest 



they had had two observation posts, 
which provided commanding views of 
the terrain to the east and west and as 
far south as Scarperia. They had three- 
inch slits on the south side for observa- 
tion. By the time the 1st Battalion (-), 
338th Infantry, reached Hill 926, the 
westernmost observation post had been 
reduced by heavy artillery fire to a gaping 
shell hole. Originally both observation 
posts had been connected by zigzag 
trenches, running on either side of 
the crest, to heavy bunkers behind the 
peak. Built of heavy timber, the bunk- 
ers were roofed with four layers of ten- 
inch logs, capped with dirt. The right 
bunker (looking from the Company C 
positions) was dug into the top of the 
peak and the left bunker into the rear 
slope some ten to fifteen yards away from 
and below the first. Since the bunkers 
could withstand direct hits by medium 
artillery, they provided good protection 
for counterattacking forces. Each posi- 
tion could accommodate as much as one 
platoon. Inside, the enemy had radio 
and telephone communication facilities 
with higher headquarters and subordi- 
nate units, including telephones to the 
observation posts. Beyond the crest of 
Monte Altuzzo all the way down the 
wooded slopes that ran northwest to the 
Giogo Pass and then onto higher ground, 
Hills 1029 and 1041, the enemy had con- 



tion posts and bunkers for housing rein- 




BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



227 



structed trenches and log bunkers that 
faced toward the highway. 1 

While the Germans on Hill 926 had 
not yet discovered the nightime approach 
of the 1st Battalion, 338th Infantry, and 
while the 3d Battalion was strung out 
behind the 1st on the main Altuzzo ridge, 
the men of Companies A and C began to 
dig their holes on the hill's southern 
slope. Their entrenching tools made 
little headway in the rocky soil; after hard 
digging most of the holes were only twelve 
to eighteen inches deep, barely enough 
to cover a man's body and too shallow to 
provide much protection against shell 
fragments. 

Lieutenant Krasman was checking the 
holes dug by his 3d Platoon (Company 
C) when his platoon sergeant, Sergeant 
Fent, reported the discovery of a dugout 
which he wanted the platoon leader to see. 
Taking with them Private Schwantke, 
the German-speaking scout, Krasman 
and Fent went to the near-by position, a 
well-camouflaged observation post (the 
right OP). After inspecting it briefly, 
they started to follow a connecting zigzag 
trench on the east side of Hill 926 to 
determine where the trench led. As 
they neared a bend in the trench, they 
spotted a German a short distance ahead. 
Schwantke called out for his surrender. 
The startled soldier darted back down 
the trench toward a bunker (the right 
bunker). Krasman and Fent fired and 
the German slumped to the ground. A 
quick investigation of the trench revealed 
two 50-mm. mortars, a machine gun, and 
several packs with food, convincing 
Krasman that more Germans must be 
on the northern slope of Hill 926. 

1 Combat Intervs and Notes of terrain recon- 
naissances with Krasman and Strosnider, and with 
all enlisted survivors in Co C, 338th Inf. 



Assault on the Right Bunker 

Instead of conducting a search by 
themselves, the three men returned for 
help from the southern slope. After 
Lieutenant Krasman called to his non- 
commissioned officers to hurry to the 
peak with some men, Sergeant Strosnider 
and about fifteen soldiers from Company 
C rushed quickly to the top of the moun- 
tain. Private Schwantke, followed by 
Sergeant Thompson (1st Platoon, Com- 
pany C) and several of his men, dashed 
to the right side of the crest of the hill 
and moved down the zigzag trench. As 
the men neared the last bend, machine 
gun fire from near the entrance to the 
right bunker halted their movement. 
Several times Private Schwantke tried to 
go past the bend, but each time a ma- 
chine gun burst drove him back. Lieu- 
tenant Krasman joined Sergeant Thomp- 
son in tossing hand grenades at the enemy 
machine gun and at other Germans 
below the north end of the trench. The 
grenades had no visible effect. 

On the crest Sergeant Strosnider and 
his group continued for a few yards 
before taking cover in a large shell 
crater. Scarcely a yard away they saw 
the upper edge of a dirt-covered log 
bunker. There were doors on two sides 
but no firing aperture. The sound of 
the movement in the crater evidently 
carried quickly to the Germans inside 
the bunker, for they soon cracked the 
door opening to the north and began to 
toss concussion grenades toward the 
crater. Some near misses jarred the 
handful of men in the crater, but the only 
grenade to land inside was a dud. 

While several of the attackers, includ- 
ing Sergeant Strosnider, remained for a 
few moments in the bomb crater, Pfc. 



228 



THREE BATTLES 



Elmer J. Kunze and Pfc. Lawrence 
Markey, Jr., worked their way along the 
western slope when suddenly a German 
wearing an American helmet popped 
from the entrance of the right bunker. 
For a moment both the German and the 
two Americans were startled. Markey 
threw his rifle to his shoulder, but hesi- 
tated a moment too long in squeezing the 
trigger. The German tossed a grenade 
first. Caught off guard, Markey and 
Kunze darted back a short distance where 
they met Sergeant Strosnider and asked 
him for hand grenades. With the squad 
leader's last grenade, the two men moved 
back on the west slope within a few yards 
of the right bunker. After a brief lull a 
German inside the bunker opened the 
door and again tossed grenades at the 
two men. Kunze promptly replied with 
his M-l. The German drew back 
inside, then opened the door at intervals 
and threw out grenades, slamming the 
door each time before Kunze could fire. 
Sgt. Harvey E. Jones and Pfc. Ernst H. 
Becker, both of the 2d Platoon (Com- 
pany C), who had been on the left slope 
of Hill 926 near the crest, had moved 
toward the entrance of the right bunker, 
some ten feet from where Kunze was 
firing. Some of the German grenades 
landed within ten feet of Jones, and one 
slightly wounded Becker. The two men 
decided to try the right side of the 
bunker. After advancing halfway to the 
right zigzag trench they hit the ground 
as a German machine gun from the left 
front on Knob 3 north of Hill 926 sprayed 
the area. Jones and Becker crawled to 
the west side of the crest and found cover 
in the big shell crater which had once 
been the enemy's western observation 
post. 



Back at the right bunker Markey paid 
little heed to the sound of the machine 
gun fire. While Kunze provided cover- 
ing fire, Markey sought an opening into 
which he could toss a grenade. As he 
moved to the top of the bunker, a rifle 
bullet struck him in the right shoulder. 

About the same time, Pvt. Anthony W. 
Houston, who was with Sergeant Stros- 
nider's small group in the crater, put a 
grenade on his rifle and prepared to fire. 
Before he discharged the grenade, a 
machine gun burst from Knob 3 sliced 
into him. After the burst the others in 
the shell crater spotted Schwantke below, 
at the corner of the trench leading to the 
bunker. As Pfc. Kermit C. Fisher called 
out, "There's Schwantke; let's go over 
and help him," he raised his head above 
the crater to climb out. A bullet from 
the enemy machine gun struck him in 
the throat, and he fell back dead. The 
rest of the men in the crater crawled 
back slowly to the 3d Platoon's positions 
on the southern slope and to the right 
zigzag trench. 

On the crest of Hill 926 and along the 
right zigzag trench, Sergeant Strosnider's 
men had failed to dislodge the Germans 
from the right bunker. Instead of rush- 
ing the position they had waited outside 
to grenade or shoot the enemy. In the 
end machine gun fire from Knob 3 had 
forced them to retire. The men with 
Lieutenant Krasman and Sergeant 
Thompson in the right zigzag trench, in- 
cluding Private Schwantke, had been 
stopped short of the bunker by machine 
gun fire from even closer range. 2 



2 Combat Intervs with the following : Jones, Becker, 
and Pfc John A. Palmer; Krasman, Schwantke, 
Thompson, Strosnider, Hinton, Markey, and Pugh. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



229 



Assault on the Left Bunker 

During this action, Sergeant Fent (3d 
Platoon), Private Lightner, and Pvt. Peter 
Kubina, Jr., moved to the left flank on 
the west slope of the peak to locate enemy 
positions. Joining up in the zigzag 
trench west of the peak, Lightner and 
Fent pushed over the bush-covered slope, 
where they discovered the left bunker. A 
bespectacled German officer was on top. 
As Lightner moved toward the lower side 
of the bunker near the exit to the trench, 
Sergeant Fent climbed up and shot the 
German. The shot aroused the enemy 
in the right bunker, who began to throw 
grenades at Fent. Dashing back across 
the top of the bunker, the platoon ser- 
geant dropped again into the left zigzag 
trench, followed quickly by Lightner. 
The two men then withdrew about half- 
way up the trench. They fired at the 
right bunker, but without success. Again 
they pushed forward in the trench toward 
the left bunker, Lightner returning to the 
entrance and Fent again climbing on 
top. Hearing voices inside, Fent called 
out in German for the men in the position 
to surrender. 

As Lightner covered the entrance — a 
two-part door that folded together — -a 
German rushed out, hurling hand gre- 
nades. Lightner fired back with his 
carbine as the grenades sailed overhead. 
The first shot hit the German in the 
stomach. Slumping to the ground, he 
reached for his pistol, but before he could 
draw it Lightner shot him again in the 
stomach and the hand, knocking the 
pistol away. To make sure the man was 
dead, Lightner pumped four more bullets 
into him. Picking up the pistol, Light- 
ner withdrew to his firing position at the 
corner of the trench. 



On top of the bunker Fent continued 
to call for the enemy inside to surrender, 
and after a few minutes the Germans 
began to file out, one by one. Urged on 
by the platoon sergeant, fourteen Ger- 
mans, including a first sergeant, marched 
out. Lightner searched them, and the 
two men marched them back to the bomb 
crater that had been an enemy observa- 
tion post. 3 When interrogated, the first 
sergeant said that the Germans were 
going to counterattack soon and would 
try to hold Monte Altuzzo at all costs. 
They had been surprised, he said; other- 
wise, they would never have let the 
Americans get past the MLR to the crest 
of the mountain. The German soldiers 
inside the bunker had wanted to sur- 
render after they had first heard the 
Americans outside. Their lieutenant re- 
fused, and kept his men under control 
until he was put out of action by the 
American fire. 4 

Return to the Bunker 

Lightner and Fent again started back 
to the left bunker, leaving the fourteen 
prisoners in the charge of other Company 
C men. Just before they reached the 
position, ten Germans led by a medical 
aid man came up to surrender. They 
had come either from Knob 3 to the north 
or from the wooded area on the north 
slope of Hill 926. After searching the 
prisoners, Lightner moved them back to 
the bomb crater while Fent covered the 
bunker. 

As soon as Lightner returned, both he 
and Fent went inside the bunker, there 
to discover a large store of German equip- 

3 Combat Intervs with Krasman, Lightner, and 
Jones-Becker. 

4 Combat Interv with Becker. 



230 



THREE BATTLES 



ment: weapons, radios, telephones, and 
rations. A telephone rang while they 
were investigating. Sergeant Fent an- 
swered, but the German at the other end 
of the line, evidently recognizing the 
American accent, slammed down the 
phone. Sure that the incident had tipped 
off the Germans that Americans were in 
the bunker, Fent and Lightner shot holes 
in the radios and ripped up the telephone 
wires, so that the enemy could not use 
the communications if he reoccupied the 
position. 

Fent and Lightner found fresh bread 
and cans of sardines, and ate greedily, 
for neither had tasted food since the day 
before. Gathering up other spoil, Light- 
ner slipped several watches on his wrist 
and stuffed his belt full of knives. The 
two men spent about twenty minutes in 
the bunker before rejoining Company C 
on the southern slope of Hill 926. 5 

After the second group of prisoners 
was brought back to the south slope of 
the hill, Lieutenant Krasman, feeling 
that he could not spare men to take them 
to the rear, put the prisoners on the 
open slopes below the Company C fox- 
holes. Two men were ordered to guard 
them from their holes. Although the 
German first sergeant protested, Kras- 
man warned that his men would shoot if 
the prisoners tried to escape; they would 
have to take the chance of getting shot 
by their own troops. 6 

When all the men who had been at- 
tacking the bunkers had returned, the 
platoon leaders made further dispositions 
to meet the counterattack predicted by 
the German sergeant. Attempting to 
round out the defense on the left flank, 
Sergeant Strosnider directed Private 

5 Combat Interv with Lightner. 

6 Combat Intervs with Krasman. 



Kubina, 3d Platoon automatic rifleman, 
into the left zigzag trench on the west 
side of the peak to cover straight down 
the trench, and farther to the left on the 
extreme left flank Pfc. Elmer Mostrom, 
another automatic rifleman, to cover 
toward Altuzzo's western ridge. Ser- 
geant Strosnider himself took position in 
the pines on the western slope of the peak. 7 
The predicted enemy counterattack 
struck soon af ter the new dispositions had 
been made. {Map 18) Under a screen 



of long-range machine gun fire from 
Knob 3 to the north, a platoon or more 
of Germans advanced to within thirty 
yards of Company C's position. They 
tried to work around the flanks into or 
near the bunkers and then around the 
side of the left zigzag trench. Although 
relying primarily on rifles and hand 
grenades, they received direct support 
from 50-mm. mortars and machine guns. 
The main enemy effort came from the 
front and flanks, but Germans from the 
rear, who had been bypassed and still 
remained along the top of the bowl, also 
placed fire on the south slope of the hill. 

During the height of the counterattack, 
the 1st Squad, 3d Platoon, Company A, 
was moved to Company C's left flank to 
fill a gap. As in other counterattacks 
that followed, these men frequently had 
to stand or kneel to shoot, exposing them- 
selves to fire. After what seemed like 
an eternity the men on Hill 926, aided 
by the harassing fire of supporting artil- 
lery, drove off the first counterattack. 8 



7 Combat Intervs with Strosnider, Krasman, and 
Thompson; Notes of terrain reconnaissance with 
Krasman, Strosnider, and Thompson, 

8 Combat Intervs with the following: Sgt John R. 
Maiorana, S Sgt Bruno G. Pegolatti, and S Sgt John 
Paludi; Krasman, Strosnider, Lightner, Hinton, 
Myshak, Colosimo-Grigsby-Albert, White, Pugh, 
and Pfc Francis A. Kaufman. 




MAP 18 



232 



THREE BATTLES 



Search Jot Spoil 

With the counterattack ended, Pri- 
vates Lightner and Kubina, in search of 
adventure and souvenirs, headed again 
toward the left bunker. As they crept 
north along the slope near the left zigzag 
trench, a German from the right bunker 
began to throw grenades. Although 
Kubina replied in kind, he was unable 
to lob his grenades into the bunker. 
Both men edged back to the left trench, 
while the German tossed two more con- 
cussion grenades. The first grenade did 
not explode; the second landed on Light- 
ner's helmet, blowing off the camouflage 
net and knocking him to the ground. 
Kubina thought him dead and rolled him 
oyer. Lightner had only been dazed 
and, except for a throbbing headache, 
quickly recovered. Together the two 
men followed the trench to the left 
bunker. 

They found it unoccupied, and after 
their search had produced several pocket 
watches Kubina looked out the entrance 
and saw eight Germans headed up the 
path toward them. The Germans were 
carrying machine gun parts and seemed 
to be moving in for another counter- 
attack. As Kubina continued to watch, 
four of the Germans disappeared from 
view; the other four continued straight 
toward the bunker entrance. Discover- 
ing that his BAR was down to less than 
one full magazine, Kubina grabbed a 
loaded Italian carbine and opened fire, 
while Lightner fired with his own carbine. 
Their combined fire quickly killed the 
four Germans. A few minutes later, 
Lightner saw another German approach- 
ing the bunker door, but when the Ger- 
man saw the American he threw his P-38 
pistol to the ground, raised his hands, 



and shouted, "Kamerad." As he stepped 
inside the door to surrender, Private 
Kubina's back was turned; Kubina 
wheeled around to see the German enter- 
ing and was so startled that he shot 
quickly, hitting the German several 
times in the stomach. Kubina and 
Lightner helped him to a double-decker 
bunk and then resumed their search for 
spoil, taking turns at watching for the 
enemy. Before long their quest ended. 
Sergeant Fent came down to the bunker 
and shouted into the door for them to 
come out. 9 

Action on the Western Peak 

Shortly after daylight Sergeant Van 
Home's 1st Platoon, Company A, push- 
ing to take the western ridge, had 
received word from Captain King by 
sound-powered telephone that Company 
C had taken Hill 926 and that the 1st 
Platoon should move on and occupy the 
peak of the western ridge. Before Ser- 
geant Van Horne could get started, 
Captain King passed the word that a 
machine gun on the western peak was 
firing on the main Altuzzo ridge. He 
told Van Horne to knock out the gun at 
once. 

Armed with a bazooka and subma- 
chine guns, Sergeants Van Horne, South, 
and Whary moved up the ridge, followed 
by the 1st Squad. Already South had 
spotted the Germans, who continued to 
fire intermittently toward the main ridge. 
Moving in single file, the sergeants ap- 
proached the position. They noted that 
the machine gun was behind rocks and 
logs near the crest. It was connected 
with dugouts and bunkers farther up the 



9 Combat Interv with Lightner. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



233 



peak by a log-covered tunnel camouflaged 
with dirt and rocks. As they neared the 
position, the machine gun stopped firing, 
but the two gunners were lying flat on 
the ground at the entrance to the covered 
trench and observing intently toward the 
main ridge. So engrossed with the 
troops on the main ridge were the Ger- 
mans that they did not see Van Home 
and his men crawling toward them about 
ten feet away. The three sergeants were 
close upon the right rear of the machine 
gun before the Germans spotted them. 
The gunners hurriedly tried to swing the 
machine gun around, but before they 
could do so South killed them both with 
two bursts from his submachine gun. 

Whary set out to investigate the cov- 
ered trench. Moving along the top, he 
saw large shell holes, which either 
artillery or direct fire weapons had 
knocked in the trench, and dead German 
soldiers sprawled inside and outside. As 
he peered down one hole into the trench, 
he noticed a German lieutenant with a 
rifle. Standing directly above the enemy 
officer, Sergeant Whary killed him with 
a burst from his submachine gun. 

After the remainder of Van Home's 
platoon had reached the position and 
searched the dugouts and connecting 
trench, the platoon sergeant placed the 
men in a perimeter defense. One light 
machine gun was placed on the peak, and 
the 60-mm. mortar just south of the 
peak. 

Before S. Sgt. William H. Kohler, 
machine gun section leader, and Pfc. 
James F. Reid, machine gun squad 
leader, found suitable positions for their 
weapons, they heard the blast of a motor- 
cycle on the highway to the north. Both 
men opened fire at the sound. When 
the motorcycle came into view moving 



fast toward the first house on the highway 
before the first switchback, Reid stood 
up and fired, felling the German driver 
with one shot from his carbine. The 
motorcycle bounded over the hillside. 
Sergeant Whary, lying near the machine 
gunners at the top of the peak, noticed 
movement in a pile of brush on the north 
side of the ridge. While he hesitated 
momentarily before firing, a German 
noncommissioned officer rose from the 
brush, and Whary cut him down with a 
well-aimed burst. 

Thus, by midmorning of 17 Septem- 
ber, the 1st Platoon (Company A) had 
taken its objective, Altuzzo's western 
peak, after one minor skirmish. One 
German machine gun crew had been 
killed, its weapon put out of action, and 
a German officer and noncom also killed. 
It was apparent from what Sergeant Van 
Home and his men saw that most of the 
enemy on the peak had already been 
killed by shellfire or had withdrawn to 
other positions. The dead who littered 
the hill bore testimony to the effectiveness 
of the supporting fires. 

Early in the morning, after the haze 
had lifted, Sergeant Van Home could see 
the main force of the 1st Battalion on the 
south slope of Hill 926. During the day, 
he and Lieutenant Krasman kept abreast 
of each other's activities by telephone 
communication with their respective 
company command posts. 

The principal mission remaining for 
Company A's 1st Platoon and its at- 
tached mortars and machine guns was 
to hold the western ridge and fire on the 
enemy who were still to the rear of the 
1st Battalion around the upper slopes of 
the Altuzzo bowl between the two ridges. 
During the day, especially in the after- 
noon, scattered groups of Germans tried 



234 



THREE BATTLES 



to break out of these positions to a path 
leading from the western slopes of the 
mountain north toward the Giogo Pass. 
With good observation on the escape 
route which was completely open at one 
point Van Home's force picked off fifteen 
to twenty Germans during the day. The 
Americans received sporadic fire from 
the western slope of the main ridge where 
small groups of Germans still held out. 10 

Action at Hill 926 

About a platoon of Germans moved in 
at approximately 1000 for a second coun- 
terattack against the men of Companies 
A and C on Hill 926. Although prob- 
ably a little weaker than the first attack, 
the second was nevertheless made with 
vigor. The enemy relied on 50-mm. 
mortar, machine gun, and rifle fire. 
Just before the Germans opened up, 
Sergeant Strosnider, on the left flank, 
saw a machine gun squad of five men 
coming through a small space in the tall 
pines toward the left zigzag trench. Be- 
fore he could fire, the leading German, 
who was carrying the machine gun, 
moved out of sight, but Sergeant Stros- 
nider fired his M-l at the assistant 
gunner, killing him instantly. His com- 
rades then dropped their weapons and 
ammunition and ran back in the direc- 
tion from which they had come. 

As the counterattack opened, other 
men of Company C placed effective small 
arms fire on the enemy. Private Mos- 
trom, BAR man, shot one man who he 
thought was an Italian. Private Bury 
and other riflemen in positions near the 
pine trees on the left fired down the slopes 



to the west between the two ridges on 
Germans trying to infiltrate the left flank. 

Soon after Sergeant Strosnider had 
routed the approaching German machine 
gun squad, enemy machine gun fire 
began to strike the left-flank positions, 
clipping the bushes around the handful 
of Americans. Private Mostrom and 
Pvt. Bruce Cohn, with BAR's, and Pfc. 
John Paludi, with an M-l rifle, returned 
the fire. When Private Cohn was hit in 
the ankle by a .30-caliber bullet, Lieu- 
tenant Brumbaugh told him to jump into 
a hole on top of Sergeant Strosnider. 
Another German bullet struck Cohn's 
back, which still protruded above the 
level of the ground. The men in the 
right zigzag trench, having run out of 
their own grenades, began to use enemy 
grenades lying close by, and the surviving 
Germans soon made a hurried with- 
drawal. 

The slight respite only gave the 1st 
Battalion troops on Hill 926 time to feel 
their thirst more keenly. They had no 
water other than the meager supply taken 
from Rocca Creek the day before, and 
many canteens were completely dry. Up 
to this time the Americans on the hill had 
suffered about fifteen casualties; the 
wounded were in slit trenches under the 
care of medical aid men. In the hope 
of preventing another counterattack, 
Lieutenant Krasman and Sergeant Stros- 
nider combined as reporter and observer 
to direct artillery fire on the area north 
of the mountain's crest. 11 

Enemy Pockets and the 3d Battalion 

While the 1st Battalion on the crest of 
Monte Altuzzo assaulted the bunkers and 



10 Combat Intervs with South— Whary, Kohler— 
Reid, Van Home, King, and Souder; Notes of terrain 
reconnaissances with Van Home, King, and Souder. 



11 Combat Intervs with Krasman, Strosnider, 
Maiorana, Pegolatti, Paludi, Brumbaugh, Hintbn, 
and Thompson. 




GERMAN MATERIEL. American troops passing a knocked-ou! armored tracked which 
(above) on the road near the Giogo Pass, and examining dual-purpose machine guns and radio 
equipment (below) in a dugout position. 




236 



THREE BATTLES 



repelled German counterattacks, the 
main body of the 3d Battalion was still 
stretched out down the main Altuzzo 
ridge, under enemy fire from the flanks. 
Pockets of Germans, still holding out 
around the top of the Altuzzo bowl, on 
Monticelli, and on Monte Verruca, raked 
the battalion with automatic weapons. 

Despite the fire, the 1st Platoon, Com- 
pany K, which was leading the column, 
worked up on the right flank of Company 
C on the south slope of Hill 926 during 
the morning, and one squad took up 
positions in the right zigzag trench with 
a handful of men from Company C. 
During the remainder of the morning 
and into the afternoon the rest of Com- 
pany K was strung out in a column 
behind the 1st Platoon. The company 
suffered six casualties when a single 
mortar shell exploded in the midst of a 
platoon conference, killing the platoon 
sergeant and wounding the platoon 
leader, the platoon guide, and the three 
squad leaders. By 0900 Company K 
had sustained ten casualties in all. 12 

Throughout the morning and early 
afternoon General Gerow and Colonel 
Mikkelsen, who had sufficiently recovered 
from his indisposition to take a more 
active part in the operation, kept their 
fingers on the pulse of the 3d Battalion. 
During frequent long visits to the 3d 
Battalion CP they badgered Major 
Kelley, insisting that he pass his troops 
through the 1st Battalion and attack 
beyond the crest of Monte Altuzzo to 
Knob 3. Neither Gerow nor Mikkelsen 
was satisfied that the 3d Battalion was 
exerting itself to close up to the forward 
positions of 1st Battalion, or that Major 
Kelley was aggressively pushing his rifle 

12 Combat Intervs with Brooks and Pfc Harold W. 
Peterson; 3d Bn, 338th Inf, Unit Jnl, 17 Sep 44. 



companies to carry out his mission. Be- 
fore launching his attack, Kelley argued, 
he wanted his troops to clear out the 
pockets of resistance which, Company K 
reported, were holding up its advance. 
Kelley ordered Company I, in battalion 
reserve, to send out one platoon to do 
the job. The platoon went out but 
failed. 13 The main body of the 3d Bat- 
talion stayed below the crest of Mcnte 
Altuzzo, well short of the assault elements 
of the 1st Battalion on Hill 926. 

Not until midafternoon did Major 
Kelley apply enough pressure to get his 
troops started. At 1518 he notified 
Company L that smoke would be placed 
in its area so that it could move. A few 
minutes later, after the 339th Infantry 
on the right flank reported that large 
numbers of Germans were withdrawing 
through the Giogo Pass, Kelley ordered 
Company L to move ahead immediately. 
Company M was directed to put fifty 
rounds of mortar fire on the withdrawing 
troops, and chemical mortars were re- 
quested to lay smoke for Company L's 
movement. At 1601 the Company I 
commander reported that the enemy was 
withdrawing on the north slope of Hill 
926. As a result of the smoke-screen 
cover and German movement out of the 
area, all of Company K was soon able 
to reach the leading elements of the 1st 
Battalion, pass through them, and jump 
off toward Knob 3 beyond Hill 926. 14 

Company K Attacks Knob 3 

Late in the afternoon, with its three 
rifle platoons abreast, the 2d and 3d 

1J Interv with Kelley, 1 Aug 45; Interv with 
Gerow, 3 Dec 48; 3d Bn, 338th Inf, Unit Jnl, 17 
Sep 44. 

u Combat Intervs with the following: Peterson, 
Brooks, Krasman, Strosnider, Kelley, and Gerow. 
See also 3d Bn, 338th Inf, Unit Jnl, 17 Sep 44. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



237 



Platoons going west of the crest of Hill 
926 and the 1st Platoon east of the crest, 
Company K attacked toward Knob 3. 
{Map 19) 



COMPANY K ATTACK 

After noon, 17 September 1944 




MAP 79 

Although the enemy had made some 
withdrawals in the area, these evidently 
did not include troops on the north 
slopes of Hill 926 or on Knob 3. After 
moving only a few yards, the 1st Platoon 
on the right was halted by fire from the 
vicinity of the right bunker. Elements 
of the 2d Platoon on the left pushed 
almost to the crest of Knob 3 despite 
stiff enemy resistance and harassing fire 
from both the left and right bunkers to 



their rear. The 3d Platoon in the center 
reached a draw between the two hills 
where fire from the bunkers halted the 
advance. With the enemy threatening 
to cut off both the advance platoons, the 
company commander ordered a with- 
drawal to the starting point. 15 

The withdrawal came none too soon. 
Striking from the front and from both 
flanks, the Germans made a determined 
effort — their third counterattack — to en- 
circle the troops on Hill 926. The 
enemy came in close, hurling hand gre- 
nades into the right zigzag trench and 
causing some casualties. The 1st Bat- 
talion (-) and Company K fought back 
with small arms and hand grenades, but 
the supply of grenades was soon ex- 
hausted. Still the Germans came on. 

During the height of the counterattack, 
Lieutenant Ritchey, Weapons Platoon 
leader (Company C), cradling a machine 
gun, ran forward to the men in the right 
zigzag trench. Setting up the machine 
gun at the first bend in the trench, while 
near-by riflemen held ammunition belts 
for him, Ritchey unloaded several bursts 
at the attackers. The Germans replied 
with grenades which landed so close that 
Lieutenant Ritchey and the other men 
in the trench were forced to withdraw 
to less exposed positions on the southern 
slopes a few yards to the rear. 

On the left flank the men of Company 
C came under German machine gun fire 
which began before and continued 
through the third counterattack. As the 
enemy attempted to work around the left 
flank between the crests of the two ridges, 
many Company C men exhausted their 



15 Combat Intervs with Brooks, Peterson, Kingslcy, 
and S Sgt John S. Warzala; 3d Bn, 338th Inf, Unit 
Jnl, 17 Sep 44. 



238 



THREE BATTLES 



ammunition in trying to, halt the attack. 
During the counterattack a German tank 
moved around in the draw north of 
Altuzzo' s western peak and south of the 
highway, firing ineffectively toward Hill 
926. 

As soon as Company K's platoons, 
which had been attacking toward Knob 
3, had returned to the south slope and 
the enemy counterattack had begun, the 
Company K commander, 1st Lt. Mack 
L. Brooks, directed his 60-mm. mortar 
men to fire at the enemy. The Company 
K mortar men checked to see that the 
riflemen were in their holes and then 
began lobbing shells some forty to fifty 
yards in front of Company C. Firing 
almost straight up into the air, the mor- 
tars put heavy concentrations on the 
enemy to the front and right front. 
After the first shells landed, the attacking 
Germans moved to the left. The mortar 
section then adjusted fire and showered 
the enemy with an effective, close-in 
concentration. As usual the supporting 
artillery put down timely concentrations 
on the Germans. Between 1700 and 
1800 the 403d Field Artillery Battalion 
alone fired three missions totaling 277 
rounds north of Monte Altuzzo's crest. 
The combination of artillery, mortars, 
and small arms proved too much for the 
Germans, and they abandoned the coun- 
terattack. Against the strongest enemy 
effort to recapture Hill 926 the little band 
of Americans had held firm and the way 
was now cleared for moving on to 
Knob 3. 16 



16 Combat Intervs with Thompson, Hinton, 
Ritchey, Krasman, Strosnider, Brooks, Kingsley, and 
all survivors still in Co C, 338th Inf, 1-10 Apr 45; 
338th Inf and 3d Bn, 338th Inf, Unit JnJs, 17 Sep 
44; 403d FA Bn Battle Mission Rpt, 17 Sep 44. 



The 3d Battalion Mops Up 

After the last counterattack against 
Hill 926 had been repulsed, the 3d Bat- 
talion, 338th Infantry, assumed responsi- 
bility for holding the crest of Monte 
Altuzzo and pushing on to the north. A 
twenty-five man patrol from Company K 
went out after dark and found the right 
bunker on the north slope unoccupied. 
When this information was transmitted 
to the rear, new orders were issued for 
Companies I and L to continue the 
attack to take Knob 3. 

Company I experienced difficulty in 
finding its way in the darkness, but Com- 
pany L jumped off successfully and 
advanced toward Knob 3. Its first op- 
position came from a small entrenched 
enemy force at the top of the objective, 
but this group's three machine guns were 
quickly knocked out. Several prisoners 
who were taken directed the men of 
Company L to two dugouts close by and 
assisted them in calling for the occupants 
to surrender. In the attack and mopping 
up of Knob 3 the company captured 
sixty-four prisoners in all at the cost of 
one man wounded and two killed. 
Shortly after dawn on 18 September, 
Knob 3, the last remaining part of Monte 
Altuzzo, was securely in American hands. 

On the morning of 18 September the 
2d Battalion, 338th Infantry, advanced 
along the highway and occupied high 
ground north of the highway between 
the Giogo Pass and Monticelli. During 
the day Companies I and L of the 3d 
Battalion continued their advance to the 
town of Barco, 1,600 yards n orth of the 



Giogo Pass. 17 {See Map IV.) 



17 Combat Intervs with the following: Sgt Meredith 
R. Jenkins; Brooks, Kingsley, et al. See also 2d Bn 
and 3d Bn, 338th Inf, Unit Jnls, 17-18 Sep 44. 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



239 



Break-Through on the Flanks 

After the 338th Infantry had reached 
the crest of Monte Altuzzo, other units 
of II Corps completed the break-through 
by seizing the peaks on either side. To 
the east, elements of the 339th Infantry 
(85th Division) secured all of Monte 
Verruca by noon of 17 September. 
Farther to the east, on the 85th Division's 
right wing, the 337th Infantry captured 
Monte Pratone during the afternoon. 
West of Highway 6524 and the Giogo 
Pass, the 91st Division fought hard 
throughout the night of 16-17 September 
and the day of 1 7 September to reach the 
crest of Monticelli in the afternoon. The 
last German resistance on the mountain 
ended by the morning of 18 September. 18 

Monte Altuzzo had been captured and 
the Gothic Line breached. The unit 
which had battled to reach the crest of 
the mountain, the 1st Battalion, 338th 
Infantry, had sustained 223 casualties. 
In repelling German counterattacks once 
Hill 926 was taken, the battalion had 
suffered twenty-nine casualties — two 
killed and twenty-seven wounded, all in 
Company C except two wounded in 
Company A. The 3d Battalion, which 
had figured briefly in the abortive effort 
to push to Knob 3 north of Hill 926 and 
the battle to hold the southern slope of 
Hill 926 and then had captured Knob 3, 
had sustained thirty-eight casualties, in- 
cluding three killed, four missing in 
action, and thirty-one wounded. Most 
of the 3d Battalion's losses had been 
sustained while it was stretched out to 
the rear of the 1st Battalion on the main 

'8 85th Div G-2 Rpts, G-2 and G-3 Jnls, 17-18 
Sep 44; 337ih Inf and 339th Inf Unit Jnls, 17-18 
Sep 44; 91st Div G-3 Jnl, 17-18 Sep 44; Strootman 
MS; Muller Notes. 



Altuzzo ridge. During the five-day 
struggle to take and hold Monte Altuzzo, 
including Knob 3, the 338th Infantry had 
suffered a total of 290 casualties — 252 in 
the 1st Battalion and thirty-eight in the 
3d — a figure that could not be considered 
excessive in view of the importance of 
Monte Altuzzo to Fifth Army break- 
through plans. 19 

In the battle of Monte Altuzzo sup- 
porting units had played major roles. 
Artillery, tanks, tank destroyers, chemical 
mortars, and the tactical air force had 
all made important contributions to 
weakening the German positions and 
hampering movement of reinforcements 
to the threatened area. Several hits had 
been scored on enemy bunkers on the 
mountain, the tanks alone claiming to 
have knocked out seven bunkers during 
17 September. The effectiveness of the 
hits undoubtedly was exaggerated, be- 
cause light and even medium artillery 
would not penetrate the heavy bunkers. 
Far more effective in the struggle had 
been accurate, well-placed artillery time 
fire, which killed many Germans while 
they were in open emplacements or 
moving into position. 

As indicated by the large number of 
enemy dead on the upper slopes of Monte 
Altuzzo, American shellfire had served 
to disperse and disorganize the Germans 
and to inflict heavy casualties. For four 
days and nights, prisoner reports indi- 
cated, artillery fire and air support had 
prevented front-line troops from receiving 
supplies of food and water. Propaganda 
leaflets, fired by supporting artillery, 
proved less effective. Although many 
enemy soldiers had read these leaflets — 

19 1st Bn, 338th Inf, Morning Rpts, 17-18 Sep 44; 
338th Inf, Casualty Rpts, Sep 44, 



240 



THREE BATTLES 



which included safe-conduct pamphlets 
and sheets headed, "Why fight in Italy 
when the Allies are in Germany?" — their 
morale had not been appreciably weak- 
ened. 

Besides killing and wounding a large 
number of Germans, the 338th Infantry 
captured many prisoners. Although an 
accurate breakdown of prisoner of war 
figures is not possible, probably close to 
200 men were captured by the regiment. 
By 1200 on 18 September seventy-three 
prisoners had passed through the regi- 
mental cage since the start of the Gothic 
Line offensive, and during the twenty- 
four hours ending at 1200, 19 September, 
the total rose to 212. In view of the 
time required to process the prisoners and 
send them to the rear, the 338th Infan- 
try's action was probably responsible for 
the capture of most if not all of them. 20 

The basic point was that the 338th 
Infantry and its supporting units had left 
the Germans with inadequate force to 
man their positions or to maintain a 
prolonged defense. The 12th Parachute 
Regiment, as well as the reserves of the 4th 
Parachute Division, had suffered heavy 
losses. Men of the Lithuanian labor 
battalion had deserted in large numbers. 
Even the 2d Battalion, Grenadier Lehr 
Brigade, the / Parachute Corps reserve, had 
lost many men from artillery fire while 
moving into position on Altuzzo and 
Verruca and had not proved able to hold 
the defenses. Even had it had no casual- 
ties, the battered Grenadier Lehr Brigade 

20 752d Tk Bn, 805th TD Bn, 178th FA Gp, and 
423d FA Gp AAR's, Sep 44; 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 
17 Sep 44; 329th FA Bn Arty Jnl, 17 Sep 44; 85th 
Div G-2 and G-3 Jnls, IPW Rpts, Intel Sums, and 
G-2 Rpts, 13-18 Sep 44; all Combat Intervs and 
terrain reconnaissances; 338th Inf IPW Rpts and 
Intel Sums, 13-18 Sep 44, 



could no longer be employed in the 
Gothic Line positions: Field Marshal 
Kesselring, the commander of Army Group 
C, had ordered the unit shifted to the 
Tenth Army to aid the hard-pressed troops 
along the east coast. When the Grena- 
dier Lehr Brigade left the area, no reserves 
remained to recapture that part of the 
Gothic Line which had been lost. By 
1920 on 17 September Fourteenth Army had 
directed the / Parachute Corps to abandon 
its positions and build a new defense in 
the heights beyond Firenzuola. Before 
midnight, 17 September, the forward 
troops of the 12th Regiment had received 
the order to withdraw.? 1 

By the morning of 18 September, the 
troops of II Corps had seized an area 
seven miles in width on either side of the 
Giogo Pass. The Germans, hard hit by 
heavy losses and the lack of reserves, 
were in full retreat toward the heights 
north of Firenzuola and, in the days 
following the break-through, offered only 
light rear guard resistance as II Corps 
drove north to reach the Santerno River 
valley on 22 September. The rapid 
movement exploiting the decisive break- 
through in front of Giogo Pass completely 
outflanked the strongly fortified Futa 
Pass, which fell the same day without 
heavy fighting. By that time the Amer- 
ican II and British 13 Corps of Fifth 
Army had broken completely through 
the Gothic Line on a thirty-mile front 
and were ready to continue the attack 
toward the Po Valley. 22 

21 338th Inf IPW Rpts and Intel Sums, Sep 44; 
Entries of 15-17 Sep 44, Fourteenth Army KTR 4; 
85th Div G-2 Jnls and Div Arty Rpt, Sep 44; 339th 
Inf AAR, Sep 44. 

22 Fifth Army G-3 Jnl and Files, 18-23 Sep 44; 
II Corps G-3 Jnl and Supporting Files, Sep 44. 




BREAK-THROUGH. Troops of the 338th Infantry advancing along Highway 6524 
near the Giogo Pass on the morning of 18 September. 



Order of Battle 



85th Infantry Division 

Headquarters, 85th Infantry Division 
Headquarters, Special Troops 
Headquarters Company 

785th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company 
85th Quartermaster Company 
85th Signal Company 
Military Police Platoon 
85th Infantry Division Band 

85th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop, Mechanized 

310th Engineer Combat Battalion (less Companies A, B, and C) 

85th Division Artillery, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery 

403d Field Artillery Battalion (155-mm. Howitzer) 
310th Medical Battalion (less Companies A, B, and C) 
337th Regimental Combat Team 

337th Infantry Regiment 

328th Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm. Howitzer) 
Company A, 310th Engineer Combat Battalion 
Company A, 310th Medical Battalion 
338th Regimental Combat Team 
338th Infantry Regiment 

329th Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm. Howitzer) 
Company B, 310th Engineer Combat Battalion 
Company B, 310th Medical Battalion 
339th Regimental Combat Team 
339th Infantry Regiment 

910th Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm. Howitzer) 
Company C, 310th Engineer Combat Battalion 
Company C, 310th Medical Battalion 

Attached to 85th Division 

752d Tank Battalion (Medium) 

805th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Self-Propelled) 

84th Chemical Battalion (4.2-inch Mortar) 

105th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



243 



In Support of 85th Division 



Headquarters, II Corps Artillery 
178th Field Artillery Group 

178th Field Artillery Battalion 
248th Field Artillery Battalion 
339th Field Artillery Battalion 
939th Field Artillery Battalion 
423d Field Artillery Group 

697th Field Artillery Battalion 
698th Field Artillery Battalion 
985th Field Artillery Battalion 



(155-mm. Howitzer) 
(155-mm. Howitzer) 
(155-mm. Howitzer) 
(4.5-inch Gun) 

(240-mm. Howitzer and 8-inch Gun) 
(240-mm. Howitzer and 8-inch Gun) 
(155-mm. Gun) 



91st Infantry Division 

363d Regimental Combat Team 
363d Infantry Regiment 

347th Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm. Howitzer) 
Company C, 316th Engineer Combat Battalion 
Company C, 316th Medical Battalion 



Bibliographical Note 



Alone among the studies in this volume, 
"Break-through at Monte Altuzzo" was 
written by the historian who obtained 
the basic source material, combat inter- 
views with more than 150 survivors of 
the action. The first interviews were 
conducted during ten days in late Novem- 
ber, 1944, when the 338th Infantry was 
in a rest center. In early December 
more interviews with Lt. Col. Willis O. 
Jackson and the rifle company com- 
manders of the 1st Battalion, 338th In- 
fantry, were conducted on the Altuzzo 
terrain. From 20 to 25 December 1944, 
the author conducted additional inter- 
views in the rest center and visited the 
scene of the battle with all surviving 
platoon leaders, platoon sergeants, and 
leading squad leaders of the 1st Battalion. 
The author spent an additional week in 
the Altuzzo vicinity in February 1945, in 
company with an artist and a draftsman. 

When a preliminary narrative revealed 
gaps in the material, the author visited 
the 338th Infantry again from 20 March 
to 14 April 1945, conducting extensive 
interviews with all surviving enlisted men 
in Companies B and C and with some 
officers who had not yet been interviewed. 
During this period he made two addi- 
tional reconnaissances of the Altuzzo 
battlefield, one with Capt. Maurice E. 
Peabody, Jr., Company B commander, 
and several of his noncommissioned offi- 
cers, and the other with all survivors of 
Company C. Interviews with personnel 
of the 363d Infantry and the 2d and 3d 



Battalions, 338th Infantry, and with 
338th Infantry and 85th Division com- 
manders and staff officers were conducted 
from time to time during the entire 
period. Combat interviews on this op- 
eration are filed in the Office of the Chief 
of Military History (formerly the His- 
torical Division, Special Staff, U. S. 
Army) . 

Unit records were useful for some 
additional material and for checking 
statements in the interviews. All three 
battalions of the 338th Infantry wrote 
relatively full After Action Reports. 
The 2d and 3d Battalions and the 338th 
Infantry kept fair unit journals of mes- 
sages sent and received, while the 1st 
Battalion kept only a sketchy journal 
which contains no record of messages and 
is of little value. Unit journals and 
supporting papers of adjacent units and 
the 85th Division provided the basic 
material for accounts of those units. 
Unit records were likewise the primary 
source for artillery, tank, tank destroyer, 
chemical, and engineer actions. The 
journals, mission reports, and After 
Action Reports of the artillery battalions 
and groups are relatively good. The 
exception is the records of the 329th Field 
Artillery Battalion, which are meager, 
but this is largely compensated for by 
interviews with 1st Lt. Dawson L. Farber, 
Jr., liaison officer with the 1st Battalion, 
338th Infantry. All unit records to in- 
clude Fifth Army were examined and are 
in the possession of the Historical Rec- 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



245 



ords Section, Office of the Adjutant 
General. 

The basic source for German material 
was the text volume of Fourteenth Army 
War Diary Number 4 (Armeeoberkom- 
mando 14, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 4), covering 
the period of 1 July to 30 September 
1944. It is filed in the German Military 
Documents Section, Departmental Rec- 
ords Branch, Office of the Adjutant 
General. Although the 4th Parachute 
Division records were not captured, much 
reliable information about the lower 
German units was obtained from radio 
intercepts recorded in 338th Infantry and 
85th Infantry Division records. Prisoner 
of war interrogations provided consider- 
able information about the nature of 
enemy dispositions, the condition of the 
combat elements, and the effect of 
American artillery fire. 

Primary sources for air material were 
the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces 
Daily Central Mediterranean Operation 
Summaries for 1 to 20 September 1944, 
and the Mediterranean Allied Tactical 
Air Force Intelligence and Operations 
Summaries for the same period. Air 
records are in the Historical Archives, 
Historical Division, Air University Li- 
brary, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. 

Postwar interviews to clear up minor 
points in the narrative were conducted 
by the author with three officers who 
participated in the operation. These 
may be found in OCMH. 

A unit history of the 363d Infantry was 
published in 1948, but was not used in 
the preparation of this study. Instead, 
the author used History of the 363d 
Infantry, a manuscript by 1st Lt. Ralph 
E. Strootman, 363d Infantry historian, 
which was the basis for the published 
history. 



Complete List of Combat Interviews 

I. 338th Infantry 

A. Regimental Headquarters 

Col William H. Mikkelsen, CO; Lt 
Col Marion P. Boulden, Ex Off; 
Maj Robert E. Baskin, Jr., S-2; Capt 
Franklin M. Ludwig, S-l 

B. 1st Battalion 

1. Battalion Headquarters 

Lt Col Willis O. Jackson, CO; 
Maj Vernon A. Ostendorf, Ex 
Off; Capt Thomas M, Quisen- 
berry, S-3; 1st Lt William 
Alston, S-2; T Sgt Wayne 
Brown, sergeant major 

2. Company A 

a. Company Headquarters 

Capt Robert A. King, CO 

b. First Platoon 

Capt King and 1st Lt John 
R. MacMinn, Jr., plat ldr; 
Lt MacMinn; 2d Lt Nelson 
B. Van Home, plat sgt; S 
Sgts David C. South, Harry 
B. Whary, Herbert H. Davis, 
and William J. Nowakowski; 
Pfc James R. Hickman 

c. Second Platoon 

1st Lt Harry R. Gresham, 
plat ldr; T Sgt Adron G. 
Stevens, plat sgt; S Sgts 
Walter J. Michalek, Jr., Ira 
W. Wilson, Edmond H. Car- 
ter, Stanley G. Hillier, and 
Kenneth C. Pickens 

d. Third Platoon 

T Sgt Darius L. Daughtry, 
plat sgt, S Sgt Joseph K. 
Colosimo, S Sgt Gordon K. 
Grigsby, and Pfc Hubert G. 
Albert; Pfc James J. Burk- 
iewa; Pfc Albert 



246 



THREE BATTLES 



e. Weapons Platoon 

T Sgt Thomas A. Culpepper, 
plat sgt; T Sgt William H. 
Kohler and S Sgt James F. 
Reid 
3. Company B 

a. Company Headquarters 

Capt Maurice E. Peabody, 
Jr., CO; 1st Sgt Volley Casey; 
Pfc George H. Friesenborg; 
Pfc John C. Jones 

b. First Platoon 

2d Lt William J. Kelsey, 
acting plat ldr, and 1st Sgt 
Charles J. Dozier; Sgt Dozier; 
T Sgt Louis S. Campbell; 
S Sgt James M. Burrows; S 
Sgt Joseph T. Barrow; Sgt 
Nelson L. Simmons; Pfc Arley 
Perkey; Pfc Marvin Cobb; 
Pfc Luther Ingram; Sgt How- 
ard C. Pecor; Pfc James W. 
Wright; Pfc Joseph T. La- 
Monica and Pvt Edward 
J. Lazowski; Pfc James O. 
Brooks 

c. Second Platoon 

T Sgt Herman Ledford; S Sgt 
Hugh C. Brown and S Sgt 
Gamelil Mullins; Sgt Mullins; 
Sgt Albert A. Lusk, Pfc Wil- 
liam C. Brodeur, and Pfc 
William Alberta; Pvt Idelmo 
Salmestrelli; Pfc John E. 
Catlett; Pfc David R. Leon; 
Pfc Albert E. Wilson; Pfc 
Willie L. Guy; Pfc Leslie N. 
Albritton; Pfc Jules D. Distel; 
Pfc Alton Mos; Pvt George 
Itzkowitz; Pvt Thomas H. 
Sherman 

d. Third Platoon 

1st Lt Clemens M. Hankes, 
plat ldr; S Sgt William E. 



Ford; S Sgt David N. Seiverd; 
T/4 Joseph F. Bertani; Pfc 
Patrick H. McDonald, Jr.; 
Pfc John Campbell 
e. Weapons Platoon 

T Sgt Arthur O. Tomlet; S 
Sgt John D. Brice and Sgt 
Lester F. Wise; Pfc Arthur E. 
Collins, Pfc John S. Ptaszkie- 
wicz, and Pfc Donald Brou tri- 
ers; Pfc Ptaszkiewicz; Pfc 
Collins and Sgt Alvin L. West 
4. Company C 

a. Company Headquarters 

Capt Redding C. Souder, 
Jr., CO. 

b. First Platoon 

1st Lt William S. Corey, plat 
ldr; 2d Lt William A. Thomp- 
son, plat sgt; S Sgt James O. 
Orr; S Sgt Clifford P. Marx; 
S Sgt Kyle F. Priestley; Sgt 
Loyd J. Duffey; S Sgt Ken- 
neth L. Fankell; Pfc Randolph 
H. Bishop; Pfc Earl B. Gray; 
Pfc Richard M. Feeney; Pfc 
Boyd A. West; Sgt Albert C. 
Borum, Jr.; Pfc Michael Bur- 
ja; Sgt George Balog; Pfc 
Louis J. Hart; Pfc Lawrence 
F. Markey, Jr.; Pfc Jackson 
P. Bagley; Pfc Truett J. May; 
Pfc Robert H. Kessell 

c. Second Platoon 

1st Lt David M. Brumbaugh, 
plat ldr; Sgt Tony L. White, 
plat sgt; S Sgt Robert W. 
Kistner, Jr.; S Sgt Harvey 
E. Jones and Pfc Ernst H. 
Becker; S Sgt John Paludi; 
S Sgt Bruno G. Pegolatti; Pfc 
Francis A. Kaufman; Sgt 
John R. Maiorana; Pfc Rob- 
ert H. Adams 



BREAK-THROUGH AT MONTE ALTUZZO 



247 



d. Third Platoon 

1st Lt Albert J. Krasman, plat 
ldr; 2d Lt Walter M. Stros- 
nider; T Sgt Pat H. Hinton; 
T Sgt Hinton and Pfc Alfred 

D. Lightner; Pfc Lightner 
and Pfc Carl Schwantke; Pfc 
Lightner; Pfc Walter W. 
Iverson; Pfc John K. Britton; 
Pfc Loman B. Pugh; Pfc 
Frank Bury; Pfc John A. 
Palmer; Pfc Paul Myshak 

e. Weapons Platoon 

1st Lt Merlin E. Ritchey, 
plat ldr; 2d Lt Zealin W. 
Russell, plat sgt; T Sgt Dale 

E. Burkholder 
5. Company D 

Capt Clarence W. Brown, CO; 
T Sgt Rayford H. McCor- 
mack, 1st Plat sgt; 1st Lt John 
R. Ciccarelli and 1st Lt Robert 
P. McGraw, mortar sec ldrs, 



and 1st Lt Lawrence S. Car- 
penter, Mortar Plat ldr 

C. 2d Battalion 

Lt Col Robert H. Cole, CO 

D. 3d Battalion 

1. Company K 

1st Lt Mack L. Brooks, CO; 
T Sgt Willie L. Kingsley; S Sgt 
John S. Warzala; Pfc Harold 
W. Peterson 

2. Company L 

T Sgt Meredith R. Jenkins 

II. 363d Infantry 

3d Battalion 

Capt Thomas M. Draney, CO, Co 
L; 1st Lt Ralph E. Strootman, 
historian, 3d Bn, 363d Inf (later 
historian, 363d Inf) 

III. 85th Infantry Division 
Division Headquarters 

Maj Gen John B. Coulter, CG; Brig 
Gen Lee S. Gerow, asst div comdr 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



the story of the 772th In- 
fantry Regiment of the 28th 
Infantry Division in the bat- 
tle for Schmidt, Germany. 



by Charles B. MacDonald 



CHAPTER I 



Attack on Vossenack 

(2 November) 



By October 1944, the First United 
States Army in Western Europe had 
ripped two big holes in the Siegfried Line, 
at Aachen and east of Roetgen. 1 {Map 
| V)\ Having captured Aachen, the army 
was next scheduled to cross the Roer 
River and reach the Rhine. It planned 
to make its main effort toward Dueren 
in the zone of VII Corps south and east 
of Aachen and thence toward Bonn on 
the Rhine. But east of Roetgen, where 
the 9th Infantry Division had breached 
the Siegfried Line and parts of a forest 
mass known generally as the Huertgen 
Forest, 2 V Corps was first to launch a 
limited flank operation. The 28th In- 
fantry Division, under the command of 
Maj. Gen. Norman D. Cota, was ordered 
to make the V Corps attack; its initial 
objective was to be the crossroads town 
of Schmidt. 

Schmidt was an important objective. 
Lying on a ridge overlooking the upper 
Roer River, it also afforded a view of the 



1 Although the official German name for the forti- 
fied belt along the western German frontier was 
Westwatl, it was known to American troops as the 
Siegfried Line.** 

' A misnomer. The "Huertgen Forest" was ac- 
tually only a small part of a forest mass extending 
from southeast of Eschweilcr (Meroder Wald) to the 
area Lammersdorf-Roliesbroich-Steckenborn. It in- 
cluded the Wenau Forest, the Roetgen Forest, and 
other subdivisions. Since the entire forest mass was 
known to American troops as the "Huertgen Forest," 
this term is used throughout this narrative. 



Schwammenauel Dam, an important link 
in a series of Roer dams which the Ger- 
mans might blow at any time. The rush 
of floodwaters thus unleashed would 
isolate any attack which had crossed the 
Roer in the Aachen vicinity. Located 
in rear of the main Siegfried Line de- 
fenses in the area, Schmidt was an im- 
portant road center for supply of enemy 
forces. The capture of Schmidt would 
enable the 28th Division to advance to 
the southwest and attack from the rear the 
enemy's fortified line facing Monschau, 
while a combat command of the 5th 
Armored Division hit the line frontally. 
Thus V Corps could complete the mission 
assigned by First Army — clearing the 
enemy from its area south to the Roer 
River on a line Monschau-Roer River 
dams. In enemy hands the Roer dams 
remained a constant threat to any major 
drive across the Roer downstream to the 
north. 

The Schmidt operation was expected 
to accomplish four things: gain maneuver 
space and additional supply routes for 
the VII Corps attack to the north; pro- 
tect VII Corps' right flank from counter- 
attack; prepare the ground for a later 
attack to seize the Roer River dams; 3 and 



3 Although this objective has come to be considered 
one of the more important of the Schmidt operation, 
neither V Corps nor 28th Division attack orders 
mentioned it. According to an interview with Col 



252 



THREE BATTLES 



attract enemy reserves from VII Corps, 
thus preventing their employment against 
First Army's main effort. 

Because the permanent boundary be- 
tween V Corps and VII Corps intersected 
the planned zone of operations, First 
Army on 25 October designated a tem- 
porary boundary to run just south of 
Kleinhau and north of Huertgen. This 
would keep the Schmidt operation en- 
tirely within the bounds of V Corps. 
Between the northernmost positions of 
the 28th Division and the new corps 
boundary, the defensive line was being 
held with a series of road blocks in the 
Huertgen Forest by the 294th Engineer 
Combat Battalion; south of the planned 
zone of operations the line was being held 
by the 4th Cavalry Group. 

Taking over the 9th Infantry Division's 
sector on 26 October, the 28th Division 
found itself facing roller-coaster terrain 
that was to play an even more vital role 
than usual in the attack on Schmidt. 



Carl L. Peterson (formerly CO, 1 1 2th Inf ), Bradford, 
Pa., 21-22-23 Sep 48, the Roer dams "never entered 
the picture." While the First United States Army 
Report of Operations — 1 August 1944-22 February 
1945 (hereafter cited as FUSA Rpt) does say that the 
Schmidt attack was "a preliminary phase of a plan by 
V Corps to seize the two large dams on the Roer River 
. . . ," 28th Division troops probably did not con- 
sider the dams an objective. Just when the American 
command fully realized the importance of the dams 
is not clear. The German command thought the 
28th Division attack was aimed at them, and the 
violent German reaction was based primarily on fear 
of losing the dams. See postwar German accounts, 
MSS § A-891 and A-892 by Generalmajor Rudolf 
Freiherr von Gersdorff (formerly CofS of Seventh 
Army); MS § C-016 by General der Infanterie Erich 
Straube (formerly CG of LXXIV Corps); European 
Theater Historical Interview (hereafter cited as 
ETHINT) 53 of Gersdorff; ETHINT 56 of GersdorfT 
and Generalmajor Siegfried von Waldenburg (for- 
merly CG of 116th Panzer Division). For a fuller 
discussion of the question, see The Siegfried Line, a 
volume under preparation in the series UNITED 
STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. 



{Map VI) Its front lines extended gen- 
erally along the Huertgen-Germeter- 
Rollesbroich road from Germeter through 
Richelskaul to the vicinity of a forest- 
er's house, Raffelsbrand. To the north 
and south lay dense forests, the southern 
forests hiding numerous enemy pillboxes 
and the town of Simonskall. To the east 
from Germeter ran a ridge topped by the 
town of Vossenack, surrounded on three 
sides by deep, densely wooded draws with 
wooded fingers stretching up toward the 
town itself. To the northeast was the 
Huertgen-Brandenberg-Bergstein ridge, 
dominating the Vossenack ridge. (In 
9th Division operations in this area, one 
battalion had attacked between these 
two ridges and secured positions in the 
woods north of Vossenack, but a violent 
enemy counterattack in the woods south- 
west of Huertgen had forced the advance 
battalion's withdrawal.) Through a pre- 
cipitous wooded gorge to the east and 
southeast of Vossenack ran the Kail 
River, a small, swift-flowing stream 
emptying into the Roer near Nideggen. 
Although a river road ran generally 
north-south alongside the Kail, only a 
small woods trail, very difficult to locate 
on the available maps and aerial photo- 
graphs, crossed the river in the direction 
of the 28th Division's attack. That trail 
led across the river and up another ridge 
on which were seated the towns of Kom- 
merscheidt and Schmidt. This ridge 
also dominated the Vossenack ridge, and 
Schmidt in turn commanded Kom- 
merscheidt. The Brandenberg-Bergstein 
ridge line, northeast of Vossenack and 
north of Kommerscheidt, was lower than 
the highest point of the Schmidt-Kom- 
merscheidt ridge but overlooked its lower 
slopes where the towns of Schmidt and 
Kommerscheidt were situated. Schmidt 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



253 



and Kommerscheidt were also surrounded 
by dense woods and deep draws. 

Two important considerations influ- 
enced the planners of the Schmidt opera- 
tion. First, air support could isolate the 
battlefield from large-scale intervention 
of enemy reserves, especially armored re- 
serves. Thus the Schmidt action would 
remain an infantry action inasmuch as 
crossing tanks over the Kali River was 
a doubtful possibility. The air task, 
extremely formidable because it involved 
neutralization of a number of Roer River 
bridges — and bridges are a difficult target 
for air — was assigned to the IX Tactical 
Air Command of the Ninth Air Force. 
Second, artillery support could deny the 
enemy the advantages of the dominating 
Brandenberg-Bergstein ridge. While the 
planners displayed great concern about 
enemy observation from this ridge, V 
Corps had too few troops to assign the 
ridge as a ground objective. Neutraliza- 
tion of the ridge by artillery would re- 
quire almost constant smoking of approxi- 
mately five miles and still could not be 
expected to eliminate the most forward 
enemy observation. But neutralization 
by artillery was apparently the only 
available solution. 

The 28th Division was strongly rein- 
forced for the operation. Major attach- 
ments included the following units: the 
707th Tank Battalion (Medium); the 
893d Tank Destroyer Battalion (Self- 
Propelled) (minus one company); the 
630th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Towed) ; 
the 86th Chemical Battalion (4.2-inch 
mortars); and the 1171st Engineer Com- 
bat Group. The 1171st consisted of the 
20th, 146th (minus one company), and 
1340th Engineer Combat Battalions. 4 

4 The 1 171st Engr (C) Gp also included the follow- 
ing: the 502d Engr Lt Pon Co, the 668th Engr Top 



Artillery in direct support was to include 
the 28th Division's organic artillery (the 
107th, 109th, and 229th Field Artillery 
Battalions of 105-mm. howitzers and the 
108th Field Artillery Battalion of 155- 
mm. howitzers); Battery A, 987th Field 
Artillery Battalion of 155-mm. self-pro- 
pelled guns; 76th Field Artillery Battalion 
of 105-mm. howitzers; 447th Antiaircraft 
Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion; 
and the attached tank destroyers and 
tanks. Two 155-mm. howitzer battalions 
of the 187th Field Artillery Group of V 
Corps were later assigned in direct sup- 
port and a battalion of 4.5-inch guns in 
general support. Also to furnish general 
support were the 190th Field Artillery 
Group of V Corps, consisting of one 
155-mm. gun battalion and one 8-inch 
howitzer battalion, and the 188th Field 
Artillery Group of VII Corps, consisting 
of one 155-mm. gun battalion and one 
battalion (less one battery) of 4.5-inch 
guns. 

The 28th Division's employment of its 
regiments was virtually dictated by V 
Corps. 5 The 109th Infantry was to 
attack north toward Huertgen in order 
to prevent repetition of the enemy coun- 
terattack that had hit the 9th Division 
from that direction. It was also to carry 
out a secondary mission of securing a line 
of departure overlooking Huertgen from 
which another division might later cap- 
Co (detached during this opri), the 993d Engr Tdwy 
Br Co, and the 2d Plat, 610th Engr Lt Equip Co. 
These units performed rear area duties and are not 
mentioned further in this narrative. 

5 Combat Interv 77 with Cota. This dictation by 
V Corps was apparently based on the limitations of 
terrain, number of troops involved, and missions of 
the attack as originally decided by First Army and 
12th Army Group. (All combat interviews on the 
Schmidt operation are by the 2d Information and 
Historical Service and were conducted in November 
1944 or early December 1944.) 



254 



THREE BATTLES 



ture the town. This later attack on 
Huertgen was to be a part of the main 
First Army attack by VII Corps, and the 
securing of a line of departure for the 
later attack was specifically assigned by 
First Army. The 110th Infantry was to 
attack through the dense woods to the 
southeast to secure a road from Schmidt 
to Strauch that would ease the problem 
of the tenuous supply route from Vosse- 
nack to Schmidt. The road could be 
used also in the later phase of the opera- 
tion, the planned co-ordinated attack to 
roll up enemy defenses facing Monschau. 
One battalion of the 110th Infantry was 
to be held out initially as the division's 
only infantry reserve. The 112th Infan- 
try was to make the division's main 
effort toward the east and southeast to 
Schmidt. Two major factors influenced 
this deviation from the tactical doctrine 
of a convergent attack: (1) the lack of 
troops available for the operation and 
(2) the necessity for performing the three 
initial missions: (a) protecting the north 
flank against counterattack and securing 
a line of departure overlooking Huertgen, 
(b) clearing the main route south toward 
Strauch in preparation for the latter 
phase of the attack, and (c) capturing the 
initial division objective, the town of 
Schmidt. 

Attached to the 112th Infantry in the 
main effort to capture Schmidt were: 
Company C, 103d Engineer Combat 
Battalion (organic); Companies B and D, 
86th Chemical Battalion (4.2-inch mor- 
tars); and Company C, 103d Medical 
Battalion (organic). In direct support 
were: the 229th Field Artillery Battalion, 
reinforced by Company C, 630th Tank 
Destroyer Battalion (Towed); the 20th 
Engineer Combat Battalion; and Com- 
pany C, 707th Tank Battalion (Medium). 



The 893d Tank Destroyer Battalion (Self- 
Propelled) and the remainder of the 
707th Tank Battalion (minus Company 
D, which was to assist the 28th Recon- 
naissance Troop in maintaining contact 
with the 4th Cavalry Group in defensive 
positions to the south) were to reinforce 
fires of the general support artillery. 

The artillery plan called for conven- 
tional fires on known and suspected enemy 
locations, installations, and sensitive 
points, the bulk of them in the Huertgen 
area to the north. The preparation was 
to begin at H minus 60 minutes all along 
the V Corps front and the southern por- 
tion of the VII Corps front to conceal as 
long as possible the specific location of 
the attack. At H minus 15 minutes, 
fires were to shift to local preparation, 
and after H Hour fires were to be sup- 
porting, chiefly prepared fires on call 
from the infantry. Since weather limited 
air observation before the attack, coun- 
terbattery fires were based primarily on 
sound and flash recordings, which could 
not be considered accurate because of 
unfavorable weather and wooded, com- 
partmented terrain. Ammunition was 
limited but considered adequate, and 
antitank defense was also included in the 
artillery plan. Artillery units were lo- 
cated in the general area Zweifall-Roett- 
Roetgen, from which all expected targets 
would be within effective range. 

The engineer plan revolved around the 
attached 1 171st Engineer Combat Group. 
One battalion of this group was to sup- 
port the 110th Infantry and one was to 
work on rear area roads. The 20th 
Engineer Combat Battalion, in support 
of the 112th Infantry, was assigned the 
primary engineer mission of opening the 
trail from Vossenack across the Kali River 
to Kommerscheidt and Schmidt. In the 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



255 



planning phases, engineer responsibility 
for security of the Kali River crossing was 
emphasized, but the engineer plan as 
issued by the 1 171st Group on 30 October 
did not charge any engineer unit with 
security of the crossing. The plan stated 
only that, because of the disposition of 
friendly troops, local security would be 
required. The written engineer plan, 
including this statement, was neverthe- 
less approved by the 28th Division com- 
mander, the division engineer, and the 
corps engineer. 6 

The 28th Division, whose men wore 
the red Keystone shoulder patch that 
revealed the division's Pennsylvania Na- 
tional Guard background, had partici- 
pated in the latter stages of the Normandy 
battle and had pursued the enemy across 
France and Belgium. Rested after al- 
most a month along a relatively inactive 
sector of the Siegfried Line to the south, 
the division was nearly at full strength, 
although there had been many replace- 
ments after an unsuccessful effort to pene- 
trate the Siegfried Line opposite Pruem 
at the close of the pursuit across Belgium. 
The major supply shortage was in all 
types of artillery ammunition, chronic 
throughout First Army since September 
when the Siegfried Line battles had 
begun. The supply of arctic overshoes 
was also far under requirements; only 
about ten to fifteen men per infantry 
company were equipped with them. 
There was little patrolling before D Day, 
partially because of the proximity of 
enemy lines and partially because of the 



* Engr story is from the following: V Corps Factual 
Study, Opns of the 28th Inf Div, Engr Sec, 2-9 Nov 
44 (hereafter cited as V Corps Study); Engr Plan, 
30 Oct 44, 28th Div G-3 Jnl File, Oct 44. For a 
furt her discussio n of the security problem, see below, 
|Ch. Ill, n. la] 



limitations of the densely wooded terrain; 
but intelligence information obtained in 
the area by the 9th Division was turned 
over to the 28th. Maps to be used were 
primarily the standard 1 :25,000 (Ger- 
many, revised), which could be considered 
generally accurate, but aerial photo- 
graphs were usually not available in 
lower echelons. 

When the 28th Division moved into 
the area on 26 October, the men found 
themselves in a dank, dense forest of 
the type immortalized in old German 
folk tales. All about them they saw 
emergency rations containers, artillery- 
destroyed trees, loose mines along poor, 
muddy roads and trails, and shell and 
mine craters by the hundreds. The 
troops relieved by the 28th Division 
were tired, unshaven, dirty, and nervous. 
They bore the telltale signs of a tough 
fight — signs that made a strong impres- 
sion on the incoming soldiers and their 
commanders. After the operation the 
28th Division commander himself, Gen- 
eral Cota, recalled that at the time he 
felt that the 28th's attack had only "a 
gambler's chance" of succeeding. 7 

The 28th Division G—2 estimated that 
to the immediate front the enemy had 
approximately 3,350 men, to the north 
1,940, and to the south 1,850, all of whom 
were fighting as infantry. Enemy re- 
serves capable of rapid intervention were 
estimated at 2,000 not yet committed and 
3,000 capable of moving quickly from less 
active fronts. The G-2 estimate did not 
mention that holding Schmidt and the 
Roer River dams was an important 
fundamental in the German scheme for 
preventing an Allied break-through to 
the Rhine. 



7 Interv with Cota, Washington, D. C, 15 Sep 48. 



256 



THREE BATTLES 




THE SCHWAMMENAUEL DAM located southeast of Schmidt. The holders of this 
dam controlled the flow of water along the Roer River and could flood a wide area along its path. 



Although the 28th's attack was origi- 
nally scheduled to be launched on 31 
October, rain, fog, and poor visibility 
necessitated postponement. Despite con- 
tinued bad weather, the attack was 
ordered for 2 November to avoid the 
possibility of delaying the subsequent 
VII Corps attack. The 109th Infantry 
was to initiate the action by launching its 
northerly thrust at 0900. 8 While the 
110th Infantry and two battalions of the 
112th were not to attack until H plus 

8 All clock time given is that officially designated 
by the Allies; during this period it was British Summer 
Time. 



3 hours (1200), the 2d Battalion, 112th, 
was to join the 109th in the H Hour 
jump-off— 0900, 2 November. » 

Facing the planned American attack 
was an enemy determined to hold the 
Huertgen-Vossenack area for several 

9 Unless otherwise noted, this introduction is based 
on the following sources: FUSA Rpt; V Corps Opns 
in the ETO, 6 Jan 42 to 9 May 45; V Corps Study; 
V Corps FO 30, 21 Oct 44, and V Corps Ltrs of 
Instn, 23 Ocf 44 and 30 Oct 44, V Corps G-3 Jnl 
and File, Oct 44; 28th Div G-3 Jnl and File, 26 
Oct-2 Nov 44; Combat Interv 77 with Cota; Combat 
Interv 74, General Notes on 28th's Opns; 28th Div 
AAR, Nov 44; V Corps G-2 Jnl and File, Oct 44; 
FO 25, 28th Div G-3 File, 29 Oct 44; Intervs with 
Peterson and with Cota. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



257 



reasons now apparent: the threat to the 
Roer dams; the dominating terrain of the 
ridges in the area; the importance of 
Dueren as a road and communications 
center; the threat to plans already made 
for an Ardennes counteroffensive; and 
the neutralizing effect of the Huertgen 
Forest against American superiority in 
air, tanks, and artillery. The unit 
charged with the defense was the 275th 
Infantry Division of the LXXIV Corps of the 
Seventh Army of Army Group B. 

That an attack was imminent was al- 
ready known from obviously preplanned 
American artillery fires and from reports 
and observation of American troop 
movement in the rear of Roetgen. It 
was also known that the new American 
unit in the area was the 28th Infantry 
Division, although the Germans thought 
the division a part of VII Corps instead 
of V Corps. 

North of the 275th Infantry Division the 
line -was held by the 12th Volks Grenadier 
Division, and to the south by the 89th 
Infantry Division, which was scheduled to 
be relieved soon by the 272d Volks Grena- 
dier Division so that the 89th could be re- 
equipped. To the north, in Army Group 
B reserve in the Muenchen-Gladbach 
area, was the 116th Panzer Division. Al- 
though the Germans believed an Amer- 
ican attack imminent in the Vossenack 
area, no specific precautions had been 
taken in movement of troops, because 
timing and direction of attack were still 
unknown. 10 



io MS # A-891 (Gersdorff); MS # A-905 ( Walden- 
burg); ETHINT 53 (Gersdorff); ETHINT 56 (Gers- 
dorff and Waldenburg); ETHINT 57 (Gersdorff); 
/ c (G-2) Sit Map, 1 Nov 44, found in OB WEST 
Kriegstagebuch, Anlag/n (War Diary Annexes), Bejehle 
und Meldungen, L-tO.XI.44 (hereafter cited as OB 
WEST KTB Aniagen 1.-10.XL44). OB WEST was 
the abbreviation of the headquarters of Oberbefehls- 



The 112th Makes the Main Effort 

In the center of the 28th Division zone 
the 112th Infantry, making the division's 
main effort, was assigned the capture of 
Kommerscheidt and Schmidt. It had 
the secondary mission of protecting its 
own north flank by the capture and 
defense of Vossenack and the Vossenack 
ridge. After the planned artillery prepa- 
ration beginning at H minus 60 minutes, 
the 2d Battalion, 112th, was to attack at 
H Hour (0900) to capture Vossenack and 
the forward (northeastern and eastern) 
nose of the ridge. The 1st Battalion, 
112th, attacking at H plus 3 hours, was 
to move in a column of companies 
through defensive positions occupied by 
the same regiment's Company A at 
Richelskaul. Then it was to attack 
southeast through the wooded draw south 
of Vossenack, crossing the Kail River in 
a cross-country move and taking Kom- 
merscheidt. The 3d Battalion, 112th, 
was to follow the 1st Battalion on order 
and capture the final objective, the town 
of Schmidt. 11 

The 2d Battalion's plan for seizing 
Vossenack and the Vossenack ridge called 
for an attack with two companies abreast 
(Company G on the left, Company F 
on the right) from the line Germeter- 
Richelskaul east through Vossenack. 
Company G was to move along the open 
northern slope of the ridge to the nose 

haber West, Commander in Chief in the West. See 
also Relief Schedule, Abloesungsplan, 28 Oct 44, found 
in OB WEST KTB Anlage 50 LVU.-3l.Xll.44., Vol. 
I, 24.X.-3LXI1.44. 

11 No copy of 1 1 2th Inf FO 30 can be found. This 
information is based on 112th Inf Atk Overlays, 31 
Oct 44, 28th Div G-3 File; 28th Div G-3 Jnl, Oct 
44; 112th Inf Atk Overlay, 1st Bn Plan of Attack, 
31 Oct 44, 112th Inf S-3 File, Nov 44; all combat 
intervs for the period. The general plan is sup- 
ported by FO 25, 28th Div G-3 File, 29 Oct 44. 



258 



THREE BATTLES 



northeast of Vossenack; Company F was 
to take the town itself and the eastern 
nose of the ridge; and Company E was to 
follow and complete mopping up of the 
town. One platoon from Company F 
was to protect the battalion's right flank 
by advancing along the open southern 
slope of the ridge and was to be followed 
by one platoon of Company E. 12 

This 2d Battalion attack was to be 
assisted by a company of medium tanks, 
Company C, 707th Tank Battalion. The 
five tanks of Company C's 1st Platoon, 
plus two tanks from its 2d Platoon, were 
to attack with Company G, 112th, on 
the left; the three other tanks of the 2d 
Platoon were to attack with Company F, 
1 12th, on the right. The remaining tank 
platoon was to assist Company E in its 
mop-up operations. Two towed guns 
of Company B, 630th Tank Destroyer 
Battalion, and five 57-mm. antitank guns 
of the Antitank Company, 112th, all in 
position around Richelskaul, were to be 
prepared to assist the attack by fire. 
Company B, 86th Chemical Battalion, 
equipped to fire high explosive shells, was 
to support the attack from positions along 
the Weisser Weh Creek in the wooded 
draw west of Germeter. The night be- 
fore the attack Company C, 103d En- 
gineers, was to clear paths through 



12 Combat Interv 75 with the following: Maj 
Richard A. Dana, S-3, 112th Inf; Capt John D. 
Pruden, Ex Off and later CO, 2d Bn, 1 12th Inf; 1st 
Lt James A. Condon, Ex Off, Co E, 112th Inf; 1st 
Lt Eldeen Kauffman, CO, Co F, 112th Inf. The 
attack overlays dated 31 October 1944 in the 28th 
Division G-3 File indicate that another platoon of 
Company E was to advance through the edge of the 
woods north of Vossenack to protect the battalion's 
left flank, but this plan evidently did not develop. 
No mention of it is made in the OCMH combat 
interviews or unit journals, and the interview with 
Colonel Peterson indicates that he recalls no such 
arrangement. 



friendly mine fields to the east of 
Germeter. 13 

The regiment's eighteen 81 -mm. mor- 
tars were grouped under Company H 
for preparation and supporting fires 
against Vossenack. After capture of the 
town, they were to revert to their respec- 
tive battalions. The Company D mor- 
tars were to concentrate their fire on the 
draw south of Vossenack, Company H 
on the houses in the town, and Company 
M on the wooded area north of the town, 
firing to begin twelve minutes before H 
Hour. The Company H machine guns 
were attached to the three rifle com- 
panies, the entire 2d Platoon going to 
Company G on the left, the 1st Section 
of the 1st Platoon to Company F on the 
right, and the 2d Section of the 1st 
Platoon to Company E for the mop-up. 14 
Before the attack Company E, 112th 
Infantry, was outposting the town of 
Germeter, while the remainder of the 2d 
Battalion was in an assembly area in the 
woods approximatel y 300 yard s south- 
On the 
09th In- 



west of Germeter. [Map VII) 
left (north) the 3d Battalion, 
fantry, held Wittscheidt on the Huertgen 
road and was to attack almost due north 
at H Hour. On the right (south) Com- 
pany A, 1 12th, held the Richelskaul road 
junction and was to be passed through at 
noon (H plus 3 hours) by other elements 
of the 1st Battalion, 112th, and the 3d 
Battalion, 112th, in the attack southeast 
toward Kommerscheidt and Schmidt. 
The 112th's Cannon Company was to 



13 Combat Interv 76 with the following: 1st Lt 
James J. Leming, 2d Lt William D. Quarrie, S Sgt 
Paul F. Jenkins, and 1st Lt James J. Ryan. All of 
Company C, 707th Tk Bn. See also V Corps Study; 
Combat Interv 75 with Condon. 

14 Combat Interv 75 with Capt Charles L. Crain, 
CO, Co H, 1 12th Inf. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



259 



provide supporting fires from positions 
in the woods some 2,000 yards west of 
Germeter. The 112th Infantry com- 
mand post was in a captured pillbox 
along the Weisser Weh Creek west of 
Germeter. 15 

The 2d Battalion Attacks 

The morning of 2 November dawned 
cold and misty, not quite freezing, but 
damp and uncomfortable. At 0800, an 
hour before H Hour, artillery along the 
entire V Corps front and the southern 
portion of the VII Corps front roared 
into action. Fifteen minutes before jump- 
off time direct support artillery shifted 
to targets in the immediate sector and 
was joined by heavy weapons of the 
112th Infantry. By 0900 V Corps and 
VII Corps artillery had fired over 4,000 
rounds, and 28th Division artillery had 
fired 7,313 rounds. Artillery liaison 
officers watched the preparation from 
the 112th Infantry observation post in an 
attic in Germeter, where the 112th 
regimental commander, Lt. Col. Carl L. 
Peterson, prepared to watch the attack. 16 

At 0900 the riflemen of Companies G 
and F, accompanied by the tanks of 
Company C, 707th, began to pass 
through the outpost positions in Ger- 
meter. Almost as soon as the prepara- 



15 Combat Interv 75 with Condon and Capt John 
T. Nesbitt, S-l, 2d Bn, 112th Inf; 112th Inf Atk 
Overlay, 31 Oct 44. Information on the 112th 
Infantry Cannon Company is meager. Maj. Albert 
L. Berndt, 112th Infantry Surgeon, in a letter to the 
Historical Division, 18 Oct 48, says the company 
continued to support the operation from its original 
positions throughout the attack. Records show that 
in later stages of the operation Cannon Company, 
112th, was attached to the I09th Infantry. 

16 Interv with Peterson; V Corps Opns in the ETO; 
V Corps Arty S-3 Jnl, 2 Nov 44. 



tory American artillery fire shifted to 
more distant targets, the Germans replied 
with a heavy artillery concentration of 
their own upon the line of departure, 
and the attacking companies sustained 
a number of casualties. Nevertheless the 
attack continued, and the men and tanks 
moved out into the shell-pocked open 
fields leading east to the objective, plainly 
marked in the morning mist by the shell- 
scarred tower of the Vossenack church. 
With the tanks taking the lead, the in- 
fantrymen fell in close behind, stepping 
in the tank tracks as a precaution against 
antipersonnel mines. Scattered small 
arms fire from Vossenack sprayed the 
tanks, and the Germans fired light mor- 
tar concentrations; but neither stopped 
the advance. 17 

Company G on the Left 

On the left in its attack along the open 
slopes north of Vossenack toward the 
northeastern nose of the ridge, Company 
G started out with its 3d Platoon on the 
left, its 1st Platoon on the right, and its 2d, 
which was considerably understrength, 
in support. Its seven attached tanks 
initiated the movement by swinging into 
a line formation and firing four rounds 
each at the Vossenack church steeple, 
presumably to discourage any enemy 
observation from the steeple. 

Two gaps had been cleared in the 
friendly mine field in the Company G 
sector. Although the southernmost gap 
near the center of Germeter was poorly 
marked and difficult to locate initially, 
it was used because it was more directly 



17 Combat Interv 75 with 112th Inf personnel; 
Combat Interv 76 with Leming-Quarrie-Jenkins— 
Ryan. 




VOSSENACK. The damaged tower of the Vossenack church could be seen by men approach- 
ing from the northwest across the shell-pocked open fields. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



261 



along the proposed route of advance. 
The assault platoons moved through the 
gap close in the wake of the seven tanks, 
about a squad of infantry following each 
tank. The advance had only just begun 
when the driver of the lead tank on the 
left, that of the tank platoon sergeant, 
T. Sgt. Audney S. Brown, misread the 
mine-field markings and blundered out 
of the cleared gap. The tank hit a mine 
and blew a track. When the assault 
platoons and their six remaining tanks 
again moved forward, the platoon leader's 
tank mired in a muddy patch of ground 
in the north-south draw which creased 
the ridge between Germeter and Vosse- 
nack, again halting the advance. The 
tank company commander, Capt. George 
S. West, Jr., seeing the difficulty, came 
forward in his command tank, picked up 
the platoon leader, 2d Lt. William D. 
Quarrie, and took position on the right 
of the formation. Again the attack 
moved forward. 18 

With infantrymen following close in 
their tracks, the tanks fired as they ad- 
vanced. A provisional platoon of .50- 
caliber machine guns supported the 
advance from Germeter, its fire clipping 
the edge of the woods north of Vossenack; 
fire from supporting 81 -mm. mortars was 
well co-ordinated and fell about a hun- 
dred yards in front of the attack forma- 
tion. 

Even as the tanks were having their 
difficulties, the company headquarters of 
Company G and the attached machine 
guns from Company H ran into trouble. 
Either the light enemy mortar fire or 
harassing small arms fire from Vossenack 



18 Combat Interv 76 with Leming-Quarrie-Jen- 
kins-Ryan; Combat Interv 75 with 1st Lt Clyde R. 
Johnson, Co G, 112th Inf. 



wounded the machine gun platoon leader 
shortly after the machine gunners left 
Germeter, and the platoon sergeant took 
over. A few minutes later the last man 
in Company G's headquarters group 
stepped on a booby trap or a mine. 
When a man from the machine gun 
platoon moved up to see if he could help, 
he stepped on still another booby trap 
or mine and was killed. The explosion 
set off about five antipersonnel mines 
simultaneously. Of the twenty-seven 
men who had been in this group, twelve 
were injured or killed in the mine field. 
Only two noncommissioned officers, both 
corporals, remained out of the machine 
gun platoon's leaders. Although slightly 
wounded, they reorganized the platoon 
and continued forward. 19 

The assault rifle platoons also suffered 
casualties, both the 1st and 3d Platoon 
leaders being hit within approximately 
400 yards of the line of departure. That 
the leaders should be wounded seemed 
ironic, for as the advance continued the 
only enemy opposition came from light 
mortar fire. The supporting tanks fired 
as they moved, and many of the Germans 
in Vossenack, already weakened by long 
days and nights of American artillery 
fire and now faced with a co-ordinated 
tank-infantry assault, fled north, east, 
and southeast. Past outlying farms and 
through the open fields north of Vosse- 
nack the Company G assault pushed on 
quickly and soon reached its objective, 
the nose to the northeast of the town. In 
an attack for which the planners had 
allowed three hours, Company G and its 
supporting tanks and machine gun pla- 
toon had taken only one hour and five 



19 Combat Interv 75 with Crain; Combat Interv 
76 with Leming-Quarrie-Jenkins-Ryan. 



262 



THREE BATTLES 



minutes, gaining the objective shortly 
after 1000 hours. 20 

Having reached the nose of the ridge, 
the company began to reorganize and to 
dig in against counterattack. Its as- 
signed zone included a trail — actually an 
extension of Vossenack's main street — 
northeast of the town. The trail was in 
the defensive sector of the 3d Platoon, 
which planned to tie in later with Com- 
pany F on the right. The 1st Platoon 
took up positions on the left of the 3d; 
the 2d Platoon, which had been in sup- 
port in the attack, came up almost an 
hour later and extended the semicircular 
perimeter to the left and left rear. The 
two light machine guns went into position 
with the 1st Platoon to cover the com- 
pany's front with cross fire. When the 
platoon of heavy machine guns came 
forward, it was placed in position with 
the 3d Platoon on the right to fire across 
the company front in the other direction, 
thus forming a final protective line. The 
60-mm. mortars were moved up during 
the afternoon and placed in slight defilade 
about 200 yards behind the company. 
All defenses except the 60-mm. mortars 
were on the exposed forward nose of the 
ridge, in accordance with the battalion 
order; despite this exposed terrain, the 
men were virtually ignored by the enemy 
for the rest of the day. The six support- 
ing tanks churned around on the forward 
slope of the ridge and fired to the north- 
east toward Brandenberg-Bergstein, as if 
the attack were going to continue in that 
direction. Company G's advance had 
been surprisingly easy; its principal 
casualties had been incurred in a mine 
field; only minor casualties had resulted 
from the artillery shelling at the line of 

20 Combat Interv 75 with Johnson; 1 12th Inf S-3 
Jnl, 2 Nov 44. 



departure, light mortar fire, and the 
occasional harassing small arms fire. 

Company F on the Right 

While Company G was launching its 
successful attack on the left, Company F 
had also moved out at H Hour in a 
column of platoons preceded by its three 
supporting tanks. The lead platoon, the 
3d, under 1st Lt. Eugene S. Carlson, was 
to advance along the open southern slope 
of the Vossenack ridge as the battalion's 
right flank protection. Since the area 
south of the Richelskaul- Vossenack road 
was deemed too exposed to suspected 
enemy positions in the southern woods 
in front of Richelskaul, the 3d Platoon 
and its three tanks planned to advance 
north of the road initially, then turn south 
on the outskirts of Vossenack, cross the 
road, and resume their movement to the 
east. Company F's 1st Platoon was to 
follow the lead platoon closely until it 
turned south. The 1st Platoon was to 
continue east through the town itself. 
The 2d Platoon was to remain in Ger- 
meter as support to move forward on 
call. The section of light machine guns 
and two 60-mm. mortars were attached 
to the leading 3d Platoon; the other 
mortar was attached to the 1st Platoon. 
Also with the company was a section of 
heavy machine guns from Company H. 
The three supporting tanks were under 
the command of 1st Lt. James J. Leming, 
the 2d Tank Platoon leader and acting 
company executive officer. 

The assault force moved out at H 
Hour, the infantry platoon following so 
closely behind its column of spearheading 
tanks that for the first 500 yards the 
infantry platoon leader, Lieutenant Carl- 
son, had his hand on the rear of Lieu- 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



263 



tenant Leming's tank. There was no 
resistance except from light enemy mortar 
fire. When the tanks and the lead rifle- 
men passed the Germeter-Vossenack- 
Richelskaul road fork, the column veered 
to the south across the main Vossenack 
road as planned. Beyond the road the 
third tank in the column continued too 
far to the south before turning east again 
and ran into surprise German opposition 
from the wooded draw to the south. A 
Panzerfaust at the edge of the woods 
knocked it out. The two remaining 
tanks and the accompanying infantry 
platoon continued to the east, the tanks 
firing toward the southern woods line at 
possible enemy positions. They had 
gone approximately 300 yards past the 
first wooded finger pointing toward 
Vossenack from the south when the 
75-mm. gun on Lieutenant Leming's tank 
jammed. The tank's coaxial machine 
guns and bow guns incurred stoppages 
that "immediate action" would not clear, 
and the antiaircraft gun also failed when 
its bolt jammed from overheating. The 
advance stopped. Lieutenant Leming 
radioed for 2d Lt. Joseph S. Novak, 
platoon leader of the 3d Tank Platoon 
with Company E in reserve, to come 
forward in his tank and lead Leming's 
one remaining tank forward. 21 

Back nearer the line of departure, 
Company F's 1st Platoon had followed 
about 200 yards behind the lead platoon 
and its tanks. In an approach march 
formation with the 2d and 1st Squads 
forward and the 3d in close support, the 
1st Platoon passed through the gap in the 
mine field and neared the Germeter— 
Richelskaul- Vossenack road fork. At 
this point, a sudden burst of fire came 

21 Combat Interv 76 with Leming-Quarrie-Jen- 
kins-Ryan; Combat Interv 75 with Kauffman. 



from two or three hitherto undetected 
German machine guns emplaced near 
a group of buildings at the road fork. 
The Germans had evidently held their 
fire when the preceding tanks and in- 
fantry had passed. 

This first burst of enemy fire hit the 
1st Squad heavily, wounding or killing 
all but three men. Although the 2d 
Squad and the remnants of the 1st built 
up a base of fire, the Germans continued 
to resist. To break the deadlock, the 
infantry platoon leader, 2d Lt. John B. 
Wine, crawled to within twenty-five 
yards of the position and knocked out at 
least one machine gun with a hand 
grenade. At the lieutenant's signal the 
two advance squads assaulted the posi- 
tion, overcame the German gunners, and 
captured four or five prisoners. 

Reorganizing his platoon quickly, 
Lieutenant Wine continued without op- 
position into the outskirts of Vossenack. 
One squad began to operate on each side 
of the main street. The men sprayed 
the entrances of the houses with fire, 
tossed in hand grenades, and assaulted 
each building in the wake of the grenade 
explosions. At least one Company F 
man was wounded and another killed as 
the enemy threw in scattered artillery 
fire. 22 

The Company F commander, 1st Lt. 
Eldeen Kauffman, had followed the 3d 
Platoon to a point just past the gap in 
the mine field. He waited there for the 
1st Platoon and then followed it through 
the action at the road fork and on into 
Vossenack. When he heard over his 
intracompany SCR 536 that the 2d 



22 Combat Interv 75 with Kauffman and S Sgt 
Charles W. Cascarano, Co F, 112th Inf. See also 
28th Div citation recommendation for Lt Wine in 
Combat Interv 75 File. 



264 



THREE BATTLES 



Platoon, in support at the line of de- 
parture in Germeter, was receiving 
intense enemy artillery fire, he ordered 
the platoon to join him in Vossenack. 

Lieutenant Wine's 1st Platoon, con- 
tinuing its advance, had almost reached 
the main crossroads marked by the 
-hiirch in the center of Vossenack. 
'Map VIII) At this point it was held up 
jy small arms fire from the house on the 
left just short of the crossroads. Sup- 
ported by fire from the rest of the platoon, 
half of one squad assaulted the house and 
netted between thirty and fifty prisoners. 
The town of Vossenack as far east as the 
crossroads was then in American hands. 

Upon the arrival of the 2d (support) 
Platoon, Lieutenant Kauffman, the com- 
pany commander, ordered it to pass 
through Lieutenant Wine's unit, which 
had become disorganized in its fight at 
the crossroads. Except for three men 
lost to artillery fire in Germeter, the 2d 
Platoon was at full strength. The ex- 
change in assault platoons was made 
about 1030 at the crossroads, approxi- 
mately an hour and a half after the 
jump-off. Though the advance had 
been rapid, the leading elements of 
Company F had covered only a little 
more than half the distance to their ob- 
jective, whereas elements of Company G 
had already reached the northeastern 
nose of the Vossenack ridge. 23 

The 3d Platoon was still waiting on 
the exposed slope south of the town for 
Lieutenant Novak to come forward with 
his tank from Germeter to assist the one 
remaining operational tank of Lieutenant 
Leming's platoon. When the assistance 
arrived, it developed that Lieutenant 
Novak had evidently misunderstood the 



S3 Combat Intcrv 75 with Kauffman. 



request and, instead of coming forward 
himself, had sent S. Sgt. Paul F. Jenkins 
with the 3d Tank Platoon's 2d Section, 
two tanks instead of one. 

The advance continued and the three 
tanks came abreast of the town's main 
crossroads. Seeing what they suspected 
to be an enemy mine field ahead, the 
tankers changed their route of advance 
and moved north with their accompany- 
ing infantry through the center of Vosse- 
nack. They followed the open northern 
slope over which the tanks with Company 
G had passed earlier. Without opposi- 
tion the three tanks and Company F's 
3d Platoon moved just to the right of 
Company G on the eastern nose of the 
ridge. There the infantrymen began to 
dig in on their objective. 24 

While the 3d Platoon was taking its 
roundabout route forward, the 2d Pla- 
toon under 1st Lt. George E. Scott con- 
tinued its advance past the crossroads in 
Vossenack. From a house on the left, 
two or three houses east of the crossroads, 
a German "Burp gun" (machine pistol) 
opened fire and halted the Americans 
with its first burst. As Lieutenant Scott 
moved up to one of his squads to meet 
the situation, another burst kH'ed him 
instantly. The platoon sergeant then 
tried to organize a flanking force, but he 
too was hit and seriously wounded. A 
squad leader was killed and his second 
in command seriously wounded in an 
attempt to shift their squad to where it 
could flank the position from the north. 

Back at the Germeter line of departure, 
the remaining three tanks of Lieutenant 
Novak's 3d Tank Platoon had started 
forward shortly after Sergeant Jenkins 
left with the platoon's 2d Section. 

24 Combat Interv 76 with Leming-Quarrie-Jen- 
kins-Ryan. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



265 



Novak's tanks, scheduled to assist Com- 
pany E in the Vossenack mop-up, moved 
too quickly for the infantry to keep pace 
and reached the crossroads ahead of 
the reserve company. There Lieutenant 
Kauffman seized the opportunity and 
commandeered one of the tanks to help 
in demolishing the burp gun resistance. 
The tanker fired two rounds at the build- 
ing indicated by Lieutenant Kauffman, 
and the F Company commander and his 
runner, Pfc. Bud Kern, charged the 
house close behind the tank fire. Inside 
they found seven men and two German 
officers, one of whom was already wound- 
ed. Kauffman and Kern killed the 
other officer, and the German enlisted 
men promptly surrendered. 

Lieutenant Novak, meanwhile, had 
turned south with his tank, apparently 
intending either to use the southern slope 
and so avoid the town as he moved east- 
ward or to help knock out the burp gun 
by firing on the house from another 
direction. As he neared the southern 
edge of the town, his tank struck a mine 
and was immobilized. Since it could 
still be used as a stationary firing point, 
Lieutenant Novak stayed with his vehicle, 
while his two remaining tanks went on 
with Lieutenant Kauffman and Com- 
pany F. 

With the German burp gun resistance 
now out of the way, the advance con- 
tinued. Lieutenant Kauffman tossed a 
grenade into the basement of the next 
house as a routine precaution, with the 
result that a group of Germans, who 
proved to be staff members of the bat- 
talion charged with the defense of Vosse- 
nack, came out in surrender. When 
questioned, one of the German officers 
pointed out the town's defensive positions 
on a map. There had been five thirty- 



man companies in Vossenack, he said, 
and despite high losses another company 
had the mission of counterattacking to 
retake the town. 

Lieutenant Kauffman shifted Company 
F's 1st Platoon, now reorganized, back 
into the attack echelon and returned the 
2d Platoon to its original support role. 
Accompanied by the two tanks of Lieu- 
tenant Novak's tank platoon, Lieutenant 
Wine's men continued down the main 
street, charging each building close be- 
hind assault fire from the tanks. The 
Germans fired only a few desultory shots 
in return, and by 1230 the 1st and 2d 
Platoons had joined the 3d Platoon on 
the final objective, the bald eastern nose 
of Vossenack ridge. 25 

Lieutenant Kauffman set up his Com- 
pany F command post in the last house 
on the right (south) side of Vossenack' s 
main street. The 2d Platoon began to 
dig in on the left next to Company G's 
right flank. On the 2d's right was the 
1st Platoon, its depleted 1st and 2d 
Squads combined into one and designated 
to defend a wooded draw that stretched 
up toward the town from the Kail River 
valley. The 3d Platoon dug in on the 
lst's right on a little exposed nose pro- 
jecting east between two draws. The 
section of light machine guns dug in with 
the 2d Platoon on the left, the 1st 
(machine gun) Platoon from Company 
H with the right platoon, and the pro- 
visional .50-caliber machine gun platoon 
alone on the ridge farther to the south- 
west. One section of Company H 81- 
mm. mortars had moved up to firing 
positions to the north of Vossenack as 
soon as Company G had reached its 

25 Combat Interv 75 with Kauffman, Condon; 
Combat Interv 76 with Leming-Quarrie-Jenkins- 
Ryan; 1 12th Inf S-3 Jnl, 2 Nov 44. 



266 



THREE BATTLES 



objective; after Company F completed 
its advance, the other sections displaced 
to the vicinity of the church. Through 
this day and the next, forward observers 
from the mortar platoon were with all 
three rifle companies. Later, because of 
enemy shelling, observers were pulled 
back to a central observation post in a 
house near the eastern end of the town. 26 

Company E Mops Up 

The mission of Company E was to 
follow Company F at an interval of 
approximately 300 yards to Vossenack. 
There it would complete the mopping 
up of German resistance in the town. 
One platoon was to move along the edge 
of the woods on the south behind the 
right platoon of Company F in order to 
assist in protecting the battalion's right 
flank. The 3d Tank Platoon under 
Lieutenant Novak was to precede Com- 
pany E into Vossenack and assist in 
mopping up. One section of machine 
guns from Company H was also attached. 

When the acting company commander 
of Company E, 1st Lt. James A. Condon, 
saw Company F moving out at 0830 in 
preparation for its attack, he began to 
assemble his men. Lieutenant Condon 
assumed that Company E was to wait 
until all of Company F had gone forward, 
and as time passed Company F's support 
platoon still did not advance. Company 
E's premature assembly had brought the 
men out of their holes and buildings ready 
to move forward, and thus they fell easy 
prey to the German artillery and mortar 
fire which centered on the line of de- 



parture. The company suffered a num- 
ber of casualties. 27 

Company E's 1st platoon, assigned the 
right flank security mission, preceded the 
forward movement of the company's 
main body, following behind the right 
flank platoon of Company F about 0920. 

The platoon leader, S. 
, Beck, employed two 



{See Map VII ) 
Sgt. Edward 
squads forward and one back with the 
assault squads in skirmish line and the 
support squad in squad column echeloned 
to the right rear. 

Evidently not aware of the previous 
decision to use the more defiladed route 
north of the Richelskaul- Vossenack road 
instead of the southern route, Sergeant 
Beck's men had gone only about 300 
yards past the line of departure when two 
enemy machine guns located in the edge 
of the woods to the south opened fire. 
The Company E platoon was pinned to 
the ground. Although Beck directed his 
men to work forward by individual rushes, 
the enemy stopped even that forward 
movement by plastering mortar fire on 
the exposed position. One man was 
killed and several were wounded, includ- 
ing Sergeant Beck. 

Several men, one of Whom was hyster- 
ical and obviously suffering from shock, 
made their way back individually to the 
acting company commander in Germeter 
with varying accounts of what had 
happened. Finally, as Lieutenant Con- 
don was starting the remainder of his 
company toward Vossenack, an assistant 
squad leader, Sgt. Henry Bart, returned 
from the hard-pressed platoon and said 
he was now senior noncommissioned 
officer in the platoon and in command. 



26 Combat Interv 75 with Kauffman, Crain, Cas- 
carano. There is no available information on place- 
ment of Company F's 60-mm. mortars. 



27 Combat Interv 75 with Condon, Crain, Pruden, 
1st Lt Clifton W. Beggs, Co E, 112th Inf; Combat 
Interv 76 with Leming-Quarrie Jenkins-Ryan. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



267 



When Sergeant Bart said there were only 
a few of his men left, Lieutenant Condon 
told him to "pick up the remnants," 
evacuate the wounded, and follow the tail 
of the company through Vossenack. 
Bart returned to his men, but the enemy 
fire blocked evacuation. Not until about 
noon, when the 1st Battalion attacked 
southeast from Richelskaul and thus 
relieved the pressure against Company 
E's 1st Platoon, did two men, Sergeant 
Bart and Pfc. Clyde Wallace, manage to 
work around behind the German ma- 
chine guns and take them from the rear. 
Private Wallace went back to the bat- 
talion command post in Germeter with 
two prisoners, and the remainder of the 
platoon, reduced now to about thirteen 
men, continued into Vossenack. 28 

While the 1st Platoon was still pinned 
down in the open field, the remainder of 
Company E and its attached machine 
gun section continued on the mission to 
mop up in Vossenack. l[See Map VIII. 
In a column of twos on either side of the 
main road, the men advanced cautiously, 
checking all buildings and cellars and 
taking occasional prisoners. Only one 
man was wounded, a 2d Platoon rifle- 
man, hit in the arm by a shell fragment. 29 

Lieutenant Novak's three tanks, which 
were supposed to accompany Company 
E in the mop-up, soon outdistanced the 
riflemen and instead assisted Company F 
in clearing the eastern portion of Vosse- 
nack. About 1040, shortly after Com- 
pany E must have first entered the out- 
skirts of the town, Captain West, the 
tank company commander, who had 
moved with Company G to the north- 
eastern nose of the ridge, received a radio 

28 Combat Interv 75 with Condon and Col Gustin 
M. Nelson, CO (after 7 Nov 44), 1 12th Inf. 

29 Combat Interv 75 with Condon. 



message asking for tank support for 
Company E. On his way back via the 
southern route to help out, his command 
tank hit a mine just south of the church, 
probably in the mine field which Lieu- 
tenant Leming's tanks had previously 
suspected and avoided. Captain West 
dismounted and found that his battalion 
headquarters tank had come up. It was 
near by performing forward observation 
for the tank battalion's assault gun 
platoon. West took over the headquar- 
ters tank to assist Company E in com- 
pleting its mop-up. Back on the north- 
eastern nose of the ridge, the tanks that 
had reached the objective maneuvered 
around in rear of the infantry positions. 
There Lieutenant Quarrie's tank threw 
a track, and the crew could not replace 
it." 

About 1530 Company E finished its 
attack mission in Vossenack and began 
to prepare for the defense. Lieutenant 
Condon placed his 3d Platoon on the 
left (north) of town, generally along the 
line of houses on the northern side of the 
street, and his 2d Platoon similarly on 
the right (south) side of town. The 
remaining men of the 1st Platoon faced 
to the west in a defense within the town 
itself, denying the battalion rear. Light 
enemy artillery fire fell as the company 
was going into position, and two men 
were killed, one of them Private Wallace, 
who had assisted Sergeant Bart in over- 
coming the German resistance southeast 
of Germeter and had returned after 
taking two prisoners to the battalion 
CP. 3 i 

During the afternoon a tank retriever 
that was sent into Vossenack to tow out 

30 Combat Interv 76 with Leming-Quarrie-Jen- 
kins-Ryan. 

31 Combat Interv 75 with Condon. 



268 



THREE BATTLES 



Lieutenant Novak's damaged tank near 
the church was itself damaged by a 
direct hit from enemy artillery. With 
his own tank Lieutenant Leming tried 
to tow out Lieutenant Quarrie's tank, 
but his efforts were unsuccessful. The 
tank company received permission about 
1600 to draw back to bivouac positions 
in the western edge of Vossenack and 
there went into a circle defense for the 
night and effected gasoline and ammuni- 
tion resupply. 32 

The forward battalion command group 
had followed the attack closely and by 
1630 had established a command post in 
a house approximately 300 yards east of 
the church in Vossenack on the south 
side of the main street. The rear bat- 
talion command post moved up after 
dark, every available man being pressed 
into service to carry an extra load of 
ammunition for resupplying the com- 
panies, 33 

Artillery in the Vossenack Attack 

The 229th Field Artillery Battalion in 
direct support of the 112th Infantry fired 
a total of 1,346 rounds from 0800 to 1200 
on 2 November, thus providing con- 
tinuous artillery support on call during 
the entire Vossenack attack. In addi- 
tion to the preparation fires, missions 
were harassing, counterbattery, and tar- 
gets of opportunity. Company B, 86th 
Chemical Battalion, fired 274 high ex- 
plosive and 225 white phosphorous rounds 
with its 4.2 mortars, and at various times 
during the day Vossenack was reported 
burning and covered with a haze of 
smoke. Company D, 86th Chemical 

3! Combat Interv 76 with Leming-Quarrie-Jen- 
kins-Ryan. 

33 Combat Interv 75 with Nesbitt. 



Battalion, did not fire, having pulled out 
of firing position to be prepared to follow 
the 1st and 3d Battalions, 1 12th Infantry, 
to Schmidt. 34 

The 1st Battalion Attacks at H Plus 3 Hours 

When the 28th Division moved into 
the Vossenack-Schmidt area, the 1st 
Battalion, 112th Infantry, had initially 
been in regimental reserve, but on 1 
November Company A had relieved 
elements of the 110th Infantry in defense 
of the junction of the Richelskaul- 
Rollesbroich road with the Simonskall 
road to the south. The rest of the bat- 
talion had remained in an assembly area 
a few hundred yards west of Richelskaul. 
(See Map VlTj\ 

The 112th Infantry's attack plan for 2 
November designated the 1st and 3d 
Battalions to attack cross country at H 
plus 3 hours (1200) in a column of 
battalions, the 1st leading. They were 
to move generally through the wooded 
part of the southern slope of Vossenack 
ridge, cross the Kail River, and seize 
Kommerscheidt. The 3d Battalion was 
then to take Schmidt, and both were to 
to be prepared to continue the attack 
toward the southwest and Steckenborn. 
This was the division's main effort. 35 

The 1st Battalion, under the command 
of Maj. Robert T. Hazlett, was to lead 
the attack in a column of companies, 
Company B leading and passing through 



3i 28th Div Arty Jnl, 2 Nov 44; 28th Div G-3 Jril, 
2 Nov 44; Hq and Hq Co, 28th Div Arty, AAR, 
Nov 44; 86th Cml Bn AAR, Nov 44. 

35 Combat Interv 75 with the following: Dana; 
S Sgt Nathanuel M. Quinton, 1st Sgt Harvey B. 
Hausman, T Sgt George A. Lockwood, S Sgt Stephen 
J. Kertes, and Sgt Travis C. Norton. Last five of 
Co A, 112th Inf. See also 112th Inf Atk Overlay, 
3 1 Oct 44. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



269 



Company A's Richelskaul defenses. 
Company C was to follow Company B 
on order, and, after Company C had 
passed through, Company A was then to 
leave its defenses to follow. Attached to 
Company B for spearheading the attack 
was the 1st (machine gun) Platoon of 
Company D. The 2d (machine gun) 
Platoon was to support the attack by 
firing up the wooded draw to the east 
from positions with Company A at 
Richelskaul. The 81 -mm. mortars were 
to support on call from a position in a 
draw in the woods 900 yards behind the 
line of departure. 36 

No preparatory artillery barrage pre- 
ceded the men of Company B as they 
passed through the Richelskaul defenses 
shortly after noon in a column of pla- 
toons — 1st, 3d, 2d, Weapons. The first 
phase line had been designated as a 
generally north-south trail, some 400 
yards east of Richelskaul, which ambled 
south from Vossenack's western outskirts 
to a juncture in the southern woods with 
the road to Simonskall. As the 1st 
Platoon advanced toward that trail, it 
was fired upon from woods in the vicinity 
of the trail and pinned to the ground by 
intense enemy fire from small arms and 
entrenched automatic weapons. The 1st 
Platoon leader, 1st Lt. Ralph Spalin, 
acting as point for his platoon, was 
instantly killed. 

Capt. Clifford T. Hackard, the Com- 
pany B commander, committed his 3d 
Platoon to assist the 1st, but in the at- 
tempted advance the 3d Platoon leader, 
2d Lt. Gerald M. Burril, was hit by the 

36 Combat Interv 75 with the following: S Sgt 
Eugene Holden, 2d Bn Hq Co, 112th Inf; S Sgt 
Joseph R. Peril, Co C, 112th Inf; Capt Richard 
Gooley, S-l, 1st Bn, 112th Inf; 1st Lt Jack E. Kelly 
and Sgt Thomas G. Hunter. Last two from Co D, 
1 12th Inf. 



enemy fire. Despite a broken leg, Lieu- 
tenant Burril dragged himself into a hole 
from which he directed mortar fire with 
his SCR 536. He was not evacuated 
until after dark when one of the men of 
his platoon and an aid man brought him 
out on a litter. Either the loss of its 
platoon leader or the enemy small arms 
fire, or both, kept the 3d Platoon from 
advancing farther. 

About one and one-half hours after the 
jump-off, Captain Hackard committed 
his 2d Platoon to the action. One squad 
from the 2d Platoon managed to work its 
way far enough forward to cross the trail; 
there it too was stopped by the intense 
small arms fire. Despite heavy support- 
ing fire from Company D's 81 -mm. 
mortars, the attack was stalemated. At 
1510 one concentration of twenty-four 
rounds was fired by the 229th Field 
Artillery Battalion at enemy machine 
guns along the trail just south of Com- 
pany B's attack route. This was seen by 
a forward observer and reported as 
"excellent," but no further mission was 
recorded as having been fired in this area 
during the day. Company B still could 
not advance. 37 

The 1st Battalion commander, Major 
Hazlett, went to the regimental command 
post about 1500 and talked with Colonel 
Peterson, the regimental commander. 
On his return, Major Hazlett announced 
that most of the gain of the day would be 
held. Because of plans he had received 

57 Combat Interv 75 with S Sgt Roy W. Littlehales 
and Pfc Clarence J. Skain. Both of Co B, 11 2th Inf. 
See also Combat Interv 75 with Holden, Kelly- 
Hunter; 28th Div Arty Jnl, 2 Nov 44. The combat 
interviews do not specifically state the commitment 
of the 2d Platoon, although they do state that one 
squad of this platoon worked its way across the trail. 
No mention is made of the use of Company B's 
attached heavy machine gun platoon from Com- 
pany D. 



271 



Z8th DIVISION FRONT 

Evening, 2 November 1944 



t ) Object, ve 



„ _ German front line (apphox.i 

Contour interval SO meters 




for the next day, however, he did not 
want to leave Company B "stuck so far 
out front." 38 When Captain Hackard 
made his way back about dusk, Major 
Hazlctt told him to pull back his advance 
elements (evidently the 2d Platoon) to 
the remainder of the company, which 
now was in a small patch of woods about 
200 to 250 yards in front of the line of 
departure, and to dig in there for the 
night. This move was accomplished 
after nightfall. 39 

Thus, the 28 th Division's main effort 
had been halted after its one attacking 
company had hit stiff German resistance. 
Except for one mission, artillery support 
had not been utilized, and neither the 
other two rifle companies of the 1st Bat- 
talion nor any part of the 3d Battalion 
had been committed. The battalion and 
regimental commanders apparently de- 
cided that, in view of the stiff opposition 
encountered by Company B and the 
comparative ease with which the 2d 
Battalion had taken Vossenack, the 
attack should be shifted to pass through 
Vossenack and avoid the resistance facing 
Richelskaul. At any rate, those were 
the plans for the next day. 40 

109th and 110th Infantry Regiments Attack 

To the north of the 112th Infantry's 
divisional main effort, the 109th Infantry 
had jumped off at H Hour in its attack 
to protect the division's left flank and 
secure a li ne of dep arture overlooking 
Huertgen. I {Map 20)1 By 1400 the 1st 



ss Combat Interv 75 with Holden. 

39 Ibid. 

40 112th Inf 5-3 Jnl, 2 Nov 44. There is little 
mention of this attack in either combat interviews or 
unit journals, and some combat interviews indicate 
that some men even thought it was a "limited ob- 



272 



THREE BATTLES 



Battalion, on the left, had two companies 
on its objective, the woods line west of 
the Germeter-Huertgen road. The 3d 
Battalion had attacked generally up the 
Huertgen road and committed all three 
rifle companies. They gained only about 
300 to 500 yards before being stopped by 
a wide enemy mine field. After two 
companies of the regiment's 2d Battalion 
had moved up to a close reserve position 
a few hundred yards behind the 1st Bat- 
talion, ostensibly to cover a gap between 
the 1st and 3d Battalions, the regiment 
buttoned up for the night. 41 

The 1 10th Infantry in the woods to the 
south had attacked at 1200, its 3d Bat- 
talion moving generally southeast in the 
cross-country direction of Simonskall and 
its 2d Battalion aiming for eight or ten 
pillboxes astride the main road south 
toward Rollesbroich. These pillbox de- 
fenses later became known as the Raffels- 
brand strong point. Both battalions 
were stopped after almost no gain by 
determined resistance and heavily forti- 
fied pillboxes. The 1st Battalion, 110th 
Infantry, was the division's infantry re- 
serve and was not committed. The 
HOth's attack to reach the Strauch- 
Schmidt road and thus open the way for 
the latter phase of the Schmidt operation 



jective" attack. General Cota knows of no reason 
why this attack was not pushed with more vigor; it 
was not his intention that it be abandoned. See 
Interv with Cota. According to Colonel Peterson, 
it was not to be a major attack. See Inter v with 
Peterson. The applicable FO is missing (se d n. Ill 
above), but the attack overlays agree with the version 
as herein presented and are substantiated by Ltr, 
Brig Gen George A. Davis (formerly asst div comdr, 
28th Div) to Hist Div, 27 Dec 49, which says, "This 
was definitely the main effort and it was not to pass 
through Vossenack." 

41 Combat Interv 77 with 109th Inf personnel; 
109th Inf S-2 and S-3 Jnls, 2 Nov 44; 28th Div G-3 
Jnl, 2 Nov 44. 



(the capture of the Strauch-Steckenborn 
area) had made virtually no progress. 42 

Air Support 

A vital mission in the Schmidt opera- 
tion, that of isolating the Vossenack- 
Schmidt battlefield from large-scale inter- 
vention of enemy armor, had been 
assigned to the aircraft of the IX Tactical 
Air Command. Although the IX TAC 
was to continue its usual large-scale 
offensive against enemy transportation 
and communications, its main single 
effort was to be support of the 28 th 
Division. The air plan involved use of 
five fighter bomber groups — the 365th, 
366th, and 368th (P-47's), and 370th and 
474th (P-38's)— and the 422d Night 
Fighter Group (P-61's). 

On the first day of the 28th Division 
attack, a third of the IX TAC aircraft 
were to perform armed reconnaissance 
on all roads leading out of Schmidt to a 
limit of 25 miles, and another third were 
to attack special targets and drop leaflet 
bombs in support of the division. But 
weather conditions prevented the first 
planes from taking off from their base at 
Verviers, Belgium, until 1234. Two of 
five group missions were canceled and 
two others were vectored far afield in 
search of targets of opportunity. One 
mission did succeed: twelve P-38's of the 
474th Fighter Bomber Group attacked 
Bergstein at 1445 and continued on to 
hit barges on the Roer River, a Roer 
bridge at Heimbach, and two factories 
east of Nideggen. The 28th Division air 
control officer reported that one squadron 
mistakenly bombed an American artillery 

42 Combat Interv 77 with 110th Inf personnel and 
Notes on Opns of the 1 10th Inf; 1 10th Inf, S-2 and 
S-3 Jnls, 2 Nov 44; 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 2 Nov 44. 



OBJECTIVE: PILLBOXES, Troops of the tJOtfi Infantry, on 2 Novtmbft, moving 
through the woods (above). One of the heavily fortified pillboxes near Rollesbroich {below). 



274 



THREE BATTLES 



position near Roetgen and caused twenty- 
four American casualties (including seven 
killed) before attacking Schmidt. 43 

The Enemy Situation 

On 2 November staff officers of Army 
Group B, the Fifth Panzer and Seventh 
Armies, and several corps and divisions, 
including the 776th Panzer Division, were 
meeting with Generalfeldmarschall Wal- 
ter Model, Army Group B commander, at 
Schlenderhan Castle, near Quadrath, 
west of Cologne, for a map study. The 
subject of the study was a theoretical 
American attack along the boundary of 
the two armies in the Huertgen area. 
Not long after the meeting began, a 
telephone call from the chief of staff of 
the LXX1V Corps told of actual American 
attacks north of Germeter and in the 
direction of Vossenack. The message 
said the situation was critical and asked 
for reserve troops from Seventh Army be- 
cause LXX1V Corps did not have the men 
available to close the gaps already opened 
up by the American attacks. Field 
Marshal Model directed the LXXIV 
Corps commander to return to his com- 
mand and ordered the other officers to 
continue the map study with the actual 
situation as subject. 

As the map study continued, reports 
of the 28th Division's attack continued 
to come in, and it was decided to commit 
immediately a Kampfgruppe of the 776th 
Panzer Division to assist local reserves in 
a counterattack against the 109th Infan- 

43 FUSA and IX TAC Sum of Air Opns, 2 Nov 
44, in Unit History, IX Fighter Command and IX 
TAC, 1-30 Nov 44 (hereafter cited as FUSA and IX 
TAC Sum); V Corps Study, G-3 Air Sec; Combat 
Interv 74 with Maj Edwin M. Howison, Air Ln Off 
from IX TAC to 28th Div; 28th Div G 3 Air Jnl, 
Nov 44. 



try's penetration north of Germeter. 
The remainder of the 116th Panzer Division 
was to follow later from its rest area near 
Muenchen-Gladbach. The chance pres- 
ence of the various major commanders 
at the map conference facilitated prepara- 
tions for this counterattack. It was 
designed to hit at dawn on 3 November 
to eliminate the 109th Infantry's northern 
penetration and to push farther south so 
as to cut off the Vossenack penetration 
of the 1 1 2th Infantry. This was virtually 
the same type of counterattack which 
had threatened the 9th Infantry Division 
when it had held this area. 44 

Summary for 2 November and 
Night of 2-3 November 

Beginning with a heavy artillery bar- 
rage at 0800 on 2 November, the 28th 
Division attack on Schmidt had met 
varying degrees of success. The 2d 
Battalion, 112th Infantry, had made one 
of the more notable advances of the day 
in seizing Vossenack and the Vossenack 
ridge. Although the 1st Battalion, 112th 
Infantry, had attempted an attack south- 
east from Richelskaul toward Kom- 
merscheidt and Schmidt, its one com- 
mitted company had been held up by 
small arms fire and the attack not pur- 
sued, although the remainder of that 
battalion, plus the entire 3d Battalion 
and a company of medium tanks, had 
been available. During the night plans 
were issued for a new attack the next 
morning to take the same objectives via 
a different route. 

To the north one battalion of the 109th 



44 MSS # A-891 and A-892 (Gersdorff); MS 
# A-995 (Waldenburg); ETHINT 53 (Gersdorff); 
Noon Sit Rpt, 3 Nov 44, found in OB WEST KTB 
Anlagm 1. -10. XI. 44. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



275 



Infantry had reached the woods line 
overlooking Huertgen, while another had 
been held up by a previously unlocated 
mine field. To the south the 110th In- 
fantry in a two-battalion attack had 
gained nothing except comparatively 
heavy casualties and the knowledge that 
its opposition was much stiffer than had 
been expected. 

Although artillery support had been 
excellent, except in the attack of the 1st 
Battalion, 112th Infantry, where it was 
not requested, air support had been 
negligible. Attached engineers had con- 
cerned themselves primarily with main- 
tenance of roads in rear areas, although 
Company C, 103d Engineers, had cleared 
mines east of Germeter and had gone 
into Vossenack after dark for road 
clearance. 

After dark all three regiments buttoned 
up for the night, evidently confining 



themselves to resupply, for there was no 
record of any patrolling. Meanwhile, 
the Germans, their defense facilitated by 
a chance map conference at Army Group B 
headquarters, were planning a dawn 
counterattack to eliminate both the 109th 
and 112th Infantry penetrations. 

The 28th Division's main effort for 
Kommerscheidt and Schmidt had on 2 
November been pushed with a surprising 
lack of vigor, presumably because a 
decision was made somewhere in com- 
mand channels that the original attack 
plan would not be followed. Although 
this decision was probably based on 
success in Vossenack as compared with 
stiff opposition on the original route of 
advance, it had nevertheless set back 
considerably the hour by which Schmidt 
might be taken. But on 3 November the 
112th Infantry would make another 
attempt to capture the objective. 



CHAPTER II 



The Main Effort Continues 

(3 November) 



to Schmidt, 
talion was to 



The 3d Bat- 
st to follow on 



After the 1 12th Infantry's 2 November 
attack through the draws south of Vosse- 
nack was abandoned, in its stead was 
substituted an advance in a column of 
battalions through Vossenack, thence to 
the southeast into the Kail River gorge, 
up the slope t o Kommers cheidt, and on 
(Map 27) J 
lead, the 1 
order, and the 2d to continue to hold in 
Vossenack. With the Germeter-Richel- 
skaul road as a line of departure, the 
attack was to be launched at 0700 on 3 
November. 

Company K, with one heavy machine 
gun section from Company M's 2d 
Platoon attached and supported by the 
3d Tank Platoon of Company A, 707th 
Tank Battalion, was ordered to spearhead 
the 3d Battalion's advance. Echeloned 
300-400 yards to the left rear of Company 
K was to be Company L, with the other 
section of Company M's 2d (machine 
gun) Platoon attached and the 2d Tank 
Platoon, Company A, 707th, in support. 
Company I was then to follow Company 
L, and the 1st Tank Platoon, Company 
A, 707th, was to be in mobile reserve. 
After the advance units had cleared 
Vossenack, the 81 -mm. mortars were to 
go into position in a small draw north of 
Vossenack, while the 1st (machine gun) 
Platoon of Company M was to fire from 
the southeastern nose of Vossenack ridge 



to support the movement across the 
river valley and up the Kommer- 
scheidt-Schmidt ridge line. The so-called 
"Greene Hornets," a special patrol group 
of eleven men under 1st Lt. Jack B. 
Greene, assistant S-2 of the 3d Battalion, 
was to patrol the woods to the north be- 
tween Wittscheidt and Vossenack to 
provide flank protection. From its posi- 
tions just east of Richelskaul where it 
had made its short-lived attack the day 
before, Company B was to provide a 
demonstration by fire at H Hour and 
would not accompany the 1st Battalion 
when it followed the 3d. 1 

The day of attack brought again the 
type of weather that characterized almost 
all the Schmidt operation: cold, but not 
quite freezing, with a heavy mist hanging 
about the wooded draws. The mist, 
threatening to turn at any moment to 
drizzling rain, made visibility poor and 
employment of aircraft doubtful. A 
morass of mud blanketed the area, miring 
vehicles on rear supply routes and sticking 
to the boots of the infantry. 2 



1 112th Inf FO 31 and Atk Overlay, 2 Nov 44, 
supported by subsequent entries in 112th Inf S-2 
and S-3 Jnls, 3 Nov 44, and 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 
44; Combat Interv 75 with Dana, Greene, and Capt 
Guy T. Piercey, GO, Co M, 112th Inf; Combat 
Interv 76 with the following: Capt Bruce M. Hostrup, 
1st Lt Raymond E. Fleig, and 2d Lt Richard H. 
Payne. All from Co A, 707th Tk Bn. See also V 
Corps Study, G-3 Sec; 112th Inf Sit Rpt, 3 Nov 44. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



277 



Since Vossenack, the first objective for 
the new attack, was already held by the 
2d Battalion, there was no artillery prep- 
aration before the attack except for con- 
tinuation of normal harassing missions. 
Unheralded by the big guns, the riflemen 
crossed the Germeter line of departure 
and shifted into the accustomed five-yard 
interval between men. The movement 
was uneventful until about 0730 when 
the formation halted at the church in 
Vossenack to begin reorganization and 
adjustment to a new line of departure, 
the main street of Vossenack. As the 
direction of the move was shifted from 
east to southeast, a brief but intense 
enemy artillery concentration struck the 
battalion. The troops took cover in 
near-by buildings and, except for one 
man wounded in Company L, escaped 
casualties. 3 

While the infantry reorganized, the 
supporting tanks of Company A, 707th 
Tank Battalion, were scheduled to pull 
ahead to the nose of the high ground 
southeast of Vossenack and fire their 
machine guns at the woods line to the 
southeast in order to neutralize any enemy 
opposition which might be present. The 
3d Tank Platoon accomplished its mission 
without difficulty. The 2d Tank Platoon 
moved farther east than had been 
planned, and the lead command tank of 
2d Lt. John J. Clarke struck a mine 300 
yards east of the church and was im- 
mobilized. The other tanks in the 
platoon pulled back, turned to the south, 



2 112th Inf S-3Jnl, 3 Nov 44; V Corps Study, G-3 
Sec; Ltr, Col Edmund K. Daley (formerly Comdr, 
1171st Engr (C) Gp) to Hist Div, 20 Sep 48. 

3 1 12th Inf S-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44; Combat Interv 76 
with Hostrup-Fleig-Payne; Combat Interv 75 with 
Capt Jack W. Walker, CO, Co L, 112th Inf, and 1st 
Sgt Robert C. Toner, Co I, 1 12th Inf. 



and joined in spraying the woods line 
with fire as the infantry pushed forward. 4 

The Spearhead Advance of Company K 

Company K moved out across the open 
space to the south of Vossenack, its left 
flank guiding on the Vossenack-Kom- 
merscheidt trail. Shells from light enemy 
mortars fell with muffled explosions in 
the muddy ground, but there was no 
artillery fire. The men moved rapidly, 
and by 0845 the lead elements had en- 
tered the woods, their presence masking 
the fire of the supporting tanks. Accord- 
ing to plan, the tankers raised their fire, 
using their hull guns as direct fire artil- 
lery against Kommerscheidt beyond the 
wooded Kail River gorge. 

Descending the steep wooded slope 
toward the Kail River, the men of Com- 
pany K were hit by enemy artillery fire. 
Tree bursts among the tall firs heightened 
the effectiveness of the shelling. One 
man was wounded and three were killed. 
Occasional sniper fire also began to 
harass them, and a man laying telephone 
wire was wounded in the leg and a staff 
sergeant killed. 

At the Kail River the scouts came upon 
ten Germans and opened fire, killing one. 
The other nine surrendered. The enemy 
offered no other ground opposition, and 
the men of Company K, surprised with 
the ease of their attack thus far, waded 
out into the chilling water of the Kail to 
continue their advance. They forded 
the river at a point just south of a mill, 
Mestrenger Muehle, shortly after 0900. 

The Germans continued to shell the 
wooded valley with sporadic eruptions 
of artillery that failed to halt Company 



4 Combat Interv 76 with Hostrup-Fleig-Payne. 




MAP 21 



279 



DRIVE ON SCHMIDT 

3 November 1944 



f— ^ F— < GEflMAh FftONT LINE, EVENING 3 NOV 
[I] GEflMAN UNIT 



Positions of 28TH Division as of do*n 4 No* 

lOOO O I 

I— —1—1 

TifJCS MIL 




K's advance up the steep slope east of 
the river. When the men reached the 
edge of the woods slightly southwest of 
Kommerscheidt, they saw the little town 
clearly. Shells from the supporting tanks 
near Vossenack were falling among the 
scattered buildings. A small group of 
Germans fired desultorily from the open 
field between the woods line and the 
town. Company K returned the fire, 
and eight Germans came forward to 
surrender. As the Germans moved in, 
Company K's scouts deployed across the 
open and into the village to reconnoiter, 
the supporting tank fire lifting as the 
tankers spotted the scouts moving across 
the field. The scouts signaled all clear, 
and Company K moved into the first 
objective, a drab little community of 
scattered houses. It had captured the 
initial objective, against virtually no 
opposition, by 1300. 

Schmidt, the final objective, was 
clearly visible from Kommerscheidt. It 
was perched on the sloping eastern por- 
tion of the Kommcrscheidt-Schmidt ridge 
line (the highest portion of the ridge was 
southwest of Schmidt). Woods on all 
sides fringed the ridge, and between the 
two towns there were several pillboxes 
along a dirt road. A group of Germans 
ran from a pillbox on the right that was 
marked by the wreckage of an American 
airplane which had crashed almost on 
top of it. Opening fire, the Americans 
drove some of the Germans back into the 
pillbox and others into a wooded draw 
to the west. 

The Company K commander, Capt. 
Eugene W. O'Malley, had begun to 
reorganize his men to continue into 
Schmidt when the enemy fired a short 
but violent artillery concentration into 
Kommerscheidt, holding up the advance 



280 



THREE BATTLES 



2* 



HUERTGEN FOREST. Enemy artillery fire Jailing oOer the heavily wooded slopes 
caused many casualties from tree bursts. 



momentarily. As soon as the fire lifted, 
the company headed down the main road 
toward Schmidt, only occasional shots 
from enemy rifles contesting the advance. 
A base of fire from the attached machine 
gun platoon and flanking fire from a 
group of riflemen disposed of the Ger- 
mans who remained in the pillbox marked 
by the crashed airplane. At the outskirts 
of Schmidt Captain O'Malley split his 
company, one group continuing through 
the town's center and the other going to 
a small sector of the town on the south- 
west along the Schmidt-Strauch road. 

They found the enemy in Schmidt, but 
little resistance. The attack was evi- 
dently a complete surprise to the Ger- 



mans. Some were captured in the 
houses where they were eating or had 
just eaten, and some were reported drunk. 
Others were caught as they rode bicycles 
or motorcycles into the town, and still 
others were taken as they strolled along 
the main road into town from the west 
without any apparent thought of dan- 
ger. 

In slightly more than seven and one- 
half hours — the time now: 1430 — Com- 
pany K had advanced to Schmidt, the 
division objective. In neither Kom- 
merscheidt nor Schmidt had there been 
appreciable German resistance, although 
G-2 sources determined later that a bat- 
talion of the 275th Division with a strength 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



281 



of 8 officers and 276 men had been 
charged with the defense. 5 

Company L Also Advances 

At the start of the move from Vossenack 
to Schmidt, Company L was echeloned 
to the left rear, its 2d and 3d Platoons 
forward. As Company K entered the 
Kail woods, Company L was still in the 
open between the town and the woods 
and received heavy mortar concentra- 
tions, probably because Company K's 
movement had alerted the enemy. Once 
inside the woods the men could hear 
artillery fire falling near by but could not 
see it, and their movement was unim- 
peded except by the steepness of the slope 
and the wooded terrain. 

The 3d Platoon on the right guided 
along the main Vossenack-Kommer- 
scheidt trail and neared the river. Spot- 
ting a lone German near a bridge across 
the stream, one of the scouts shot him, 
and the platoon joined the remainder of 
the company in fording the river 300 
yards north of the bridge, finding the 
river narrow and shallow with sloping 
banks and a rock bottom. The com- 
pany's advance was keeping pace with 
Company K, which at about the same 
time, 0900, was fording the stream to the 
south near the Mestrenger Muehle. 

Company L, with two platoons for- 
ward, continued up a steep slope beyond 
the river, keeping inside the woods in 
order to skirt the open fields to the north 
of Kommerscheidt and come upon the 
town unobserved from the east. One 



* Combat Interv 75 with Dana, Walker, and 2d 
Lt Richard Tyo, Co K, 112th Inf; Combat Interv 
76 with Hostrup-Fleig-Payne; 112th Inf S-3 Jnl, 
3 Nov 44; V Corps Study, G-3 Sec; V Corps AAR, 
Nov 44. 



stray enemy soldier was taken prisoner, 
and later, about noon, some of the men 
reported they saw Germans in the houses 
of Froitscheidt, a small settlement across 
a shallow wooded draw to the east. The 
company halted almost abreast of this 
settlement, set up two heavy machine 
guns, and fired on one of the houses. 
Nothing happened; so the company com- 
mander, Capt. Jack W. Walker, sent a 
patrol to the buildings only to find the 
settlement unoccupied. 

The Americans continued and by 1 400 
had reached their assault position in the 
edge of the woods east of Kommerscheidt. 
When Captain Walker checked in with 
his battalion headquarters, he learned 
that Company K had already taken 
Kommerscheidt and that Company L 
was to move on immediately to assist in 
taking Schmidt. 6 

Walker shifted his unit's attack forma- 
tion to put the 1st and 2d Platoons for- 
ward and the 3d in support, and Com- 
pany L moved south again toward 
Schmidt, staying within the woods line 
east of the Kommerscheidt-Schmidt 
clearing. It met no opposition. Two 
German troop shelters with smoke com- 
ing from them lay on the route of 
advance, but they housed no enemy 
except for one wounded German whom 
the men deemed beyond assistance. 

It was now well after 1500, and another 
message from battalion said Company K 
was already in Schmidt and directed 
Company L to move ahead quickly. 
The men pushed on and entered Schmidt 
at the junction of the Bergstein and 
Harscheidt roads on the east, taking ap- 
proximately thirty prisoners from the 
first houses. Darkness, which came early 



6 Combat Interv 75 with Walker. 



282 



THREE BATTLES 



in the forests during the misty winter 
days, began to increase, joining with 
harassing sniper fire to hamper the 
company in its mop-up of the town. 
Finally, complete darkness and a bat- 
talion order to shift to the defense halted 
the mop-up. Sniper and machine gun 
fire still came from a group of buildings 
at the extreme southeast of town along 
the Hasenfeld road. 7 

Company I Follows in Reserve 

The 3d Battalion's reserve company, 
Company I, minus its 1st Platoon, which 
was on security guard at division head- 
quarters, was still in Vossenack when the 
mortar concentrations in the open area 
between the town and the Kali woods 
hit the two leading companies. As 
Company I started to follow the advance, 
mortar fire fell on its column as well, 
causing the company's 60-mm. mortar 
section at the rear of the column to lose 
contact. The rest of the company en- 
tered the woods before the section leader 
could re-establish contact. Since mortar 
fire continued on the open ridge and 
since he had no knowledge of his com- 
pany's assigned location beyond the Kail, 
the section leader kept his group in 
Vossenack and attached it to Company 
H. The main body of Company I had 
no difficulty in the advance after entering 
the Kail woods and closed into Schmidt 
shortly after 1600. 8 

Company M Moves to Schmidt 

When the Company M commander, 
Capt. Guy T. Piercey, received word that 

7 Company L story is from the following: Combat 
Interv 75 with Walker, Piercey, and S Sgt Frank 
Ripperdam, Co L, 112th Inf; 112th Int" S-3 Jnl, 
3 Nov 44. 

8 Combat Interv 75 with Toner. 



Company K had captured Kommer- 
scheidt, he directed his 81 -mm. mortars 
in Vossenack and his machine gun 
platoon on the Vossenack ridge to move 
up quickly in order to provide close-in 
fire support for the subsequent attack on 
Schmidt. Company K's later advance 
into Schmidt was so rapid, however, that 
there was no reason for the weapons men 
to halt in Kommerscheidt, and they 
moved directly into Schmidt. It was 
well after dark when they arrived. 9 

3d Battalion Medics 

At the start of the attack on Schmidt 
the 3d Battalion medical aid station was 
located in the woods west of Germeter. 
After the battalion reached Vossenack 
in early morning, 2d Lt. Alfred J. Muglia, 
Medical Administrative Corps, estab- 
lished a forward collecting point in the 
Vossenack church. He used two jeeps 
and an M-29 weasel to transport patients 
back to the rear aid station west of 
Germeter. That afternoon, when the 3d 
Battalion had reached Schmidt, Lieu- 
tenant Muglia and several enlisted medics 
moved forward in a weasel to reconnoiter 
for another aid station site. On the 
narrow and slippery Vossenack-Kom- 
merscheidt route through the Kail woods 
the weasel threw its tracks and had to be 
abandoned, blocking the trail. Lieu- 
tenant Muglia returned to Vossenack, 
secured a litter squad and a jeep, and 
drove back for several patients, possibly 
wounded men of Company K, who had 
been attracted to the weasel's Red Cross 
flag. He evacuated all of them and, 
since it was almost dark, instructed the 

9 Combat Interv 75 with Piercey; Interv with Capt 
Wayne E. Barnett (formerly 81 -mm. mortar sec Idr, 
Co M, 1 12th Inf), in Kane, Pa., 22 Sep 48. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



283 



litter squad to dig in for the night along 
the edge of the woods. Then he returned 
to Vossenack and assisted evacuation 
there during the night. 10 

The Greene Hornets 

The special patrol group of twelve 
volunteers, nicknamed the "Greene Hor- 
nets," served in effect as an intelligence 
and reconnaissance platoon at the dis- 
posal of the 3d Battalion commander. 
Led by Lieutenant Greene the group 
moved out early in the morning on its 
mission of patrolling the woods north of 
Vossenack just as the 3d Battalion was 
leaving Germeter. Lieutenant Greene 
and his men traveled north to Witt- 
scheidt, crossed the Huertgen road, and 
entered the woods to the east. They 
found an abandoned German antitank 
gun and later came unexpectedly upon 
an enemy outpost defended by two 
machine guns and a burp gun. So close 
did the patrol come before either group 
discovered the other's presence that the 
resulting fire fight became a hand gre- 
nade duel. The Americans quickly de- 
molished the outpost, killing one German, 
severely wounding another, and putting 
the rest to flight. Greene's men suffered 
no casualties. 

After investigating a draw in the 
woods, the patrol moved back into the 
open and into Vossenack. Lieutenant 
Greene decided against carrying out a 
secondary mission of reconnoitering to 
the southeast for an alternate supply 
route across the Kali River because of 
heavy enemy shelling in the area. For 



10 2d Lt Alfred J. Muglia, MAC, Rpt of Evacua- 
tion to 28th Div Surgeon, 11 Nov 44, in Combat 
Interv File 76 (hereafter cited as Muglia Rpt). 



the same reason he made no effort to 
rejoin his battalion across the river in 
Schmidt. 11 

The 1st Battalion Follows the 3d 

The 1st Battalion, minus Company B, 
moved out of Germeter about noon on 
its way to Vossenack. Company B, 
after completing its demonstration east 
of Richelskaul, had withdrawn into 
Company A's former positions around 
the Richelskaul road junction. The rest 
of the battalion, in the order A, Battalion 
Headquarters, C, and D, reached Vosse- 
nack by 1330. There it changed direc- 
tion at the church and moved out across 
the open space toward the Kali woods. 
Enemy artillery fire hit the column while 
it was in the open and killed a Company 
D messenger. In the woods sporadic en- 
emy shelling continued, severely wound- 
ing a sergeant of Company A and 
killing a mortar section runner. 

Probably because the river was to be 
used as a reorganization phase line, 
Company A halted just north of the 
bridge site and began to dig in to protect 
itself against enemy artillery fire. Upon 
reaching the river farther to the south, 
Company C too began to dig in. When 
orders were soon given to continue, Com- 
pany C shifted to the lead in the column 
of companies and advanced across the 
bridge and up a winding trail toward 
Kommerscheidt. Darkness was rapidly 
approaching. At the woods line over- 
looking the open fields leading into 
Kommerscheidt, Company C halted and 
again began to dig in, and Company A 
and the remainder of the column passed 
through and into Kommerscheidt. 



Combat Interv 75 with Greene. 



284 



THREE BATTLES 



At 1614 the 28th Division chief of staff 
sent a message to Colonel Peterson, the 
112th Infantry commander, instructing 
him to send his 1st Battalion to Schmidt 
to assist the 3d. These instructions ac- 
corded with the regiment's original attack 
plan. Regiment must have changed 
plans, however, for the 1st Battalion 
made no effort to continue past Kom- 
merscheidt. The battalion, minus Com- 
pany B back at Richelskaul and Company 
C at the northern woods line overlooking 
Kommerscheidt, closed into the town 
about 2100. Division must have con- 
curred in the change, for at 2255 Colonel 
Peterson reported to it that he had a 
battalion in Schmidt and a battalion in 
Kommerscheidt, and division issued no 
further recorded instructions. A division 
letter of instructions for 4 November 
(evidently prepared during the night of 
3 November) instructed the 1st Battalion 
to continue to hold in Kommerscheidt. 12 

The night was black, and the enemy 
harassed the defensive preparations in 
Kommerscheidt with fire from heavy 
mortars. The Company A commander, 
whose men composed the bulk of the 
town's defenders, deployed his platoons 
as best he could in the darkness, the 1st 
Platoon defending to the east, the 2d 



12 Combat Interv 75 with Peril and Quinton- 
Hausman-Lockwood-Kertes-Norton; 28th Div G-3 
Jnl, 3 Nov 44. Colonel Peterson has notes from a 
3 November conference saying only, "3d Bn to be 
supported by 1st." He says it was his plan to send 
the 1st Battalion behind the 3d by bounds, and he 
does not recall that he ever planned to send the 1st 
Battalion to Schmidt, because he wanted to provide 
a defense in depth in deference to the regiment's 
exposed salient into enemy territory. He does not 
believe the battalion would have stopped if it had not 
had orders to do so, for "Major Hazlett [the 1st 
Battalion commanding officer] was a man who had 
the courage to do what he was told to do." See 
Interv with Peterson. 



Platoon to the south, and the 3d Platoon 
to the southwest. A gap of several 
hundred yards between the 2d and 3d 
Platoons was partially closed with a thin 
cover of personnel from the battalion 
Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon, and 
Company A's light machine guns went 
into position with the 2d Platoon to cover 
the main road to Schmidt. 

Company D's machine gunners and 
mortar men had found the going slow 
and arduous in the darkness and over the 
rugged terrain on the slopes of the river 
draw. Arriving in Kommerscheidt al- 
most an hour behind Company A, the 
men set up their defenses as best they 
could. The blackness of the night added 
to the normal confusion of moving into 
strange territory. The move was finally 
completed, one section of machine guns 
going to the left flank (east) and one to 
the right (west), and the 81 -mm. mortars 
going into position in the rear (north) 
of the town. The other machine gun 
platoon had been left with Company B 
at Richelskaul. 

The 1st Battalion command group, 
including the battalion commander, 
Major Hazlett, was established in a small, 
partially covered, trench-type dugout, in 
an orchard near a road junction on the 
northern edge of the town. Thus the 1st 
Battalion prepared for the night, its 
Company B still defending far back at 
the line of departure at Richelskaul, its 
Company C in a support position at the 
northern Kommerscheidt woods line, 
and Companies A and D (minus one 
machine gun platoon) in Kommerscheidt 
itself. 13 

l: Combat Interv 75 with Peril, Holden, Kelly- 
Hunter, Quinton-Hausman-Lockwood-Kertes-Nor- 
ton, and Sgt Tony Kudiak, A and P Plat, 1st Bn 
Hq Co, 1 12th Inf; 1 12th Inf S-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



285 



1st Battalion Medics 

The 1st Battalion medical personnel 
followed the battalion's initial advance 
from Germeter to Vossenack and there 
set up a forward aid station. Within an 
hour, the medics were ordered to follow 
the battalion in a continuation of the 
advance. Knowing neither the proposed 
route nor the destination, Capt. Paschal 
A. Linguiti, the battalion surgeon, and 
his Medical Administrative Corps assist- 
ant, 2d Lt. Henry W. Morrison, joined 
the rear of the battalion column with 
their medical personnel and a weasel 
carrying aid station equipment. The ad- 
vance proved to be cross-country toward 
Kommerscheidt, and they were forced 
to abandon the weasel as they entered 
the Kail woods, five of the medics trans- 
ferring the equipment to their own backs. 
They reached Kommerscheidt about 
2200 and selected for their aid station the 
cellar of a house on the northern edge of 
town. 1 * 

Artillery Support 

Requests for supporting artillery mis- 
sions were few on 3 November, probably 
because the 3d and 1st Battalions ad- 
vanced with comparative ease. The 
229th Field Artillery Battalion in direct 
support did fire 132 missions, most of 
them harassing. At 1340 Battery C, 
229th, displaced forward farther east in 
the woods west of Germeter. Although 



u Capt Michael DeMarco and Capt Paschal A. 
Linguiti, Report on Evacuation of Wounded from 
Vossenack, Kommerscheidt and Schmidt, 2-11 Nov 
44, to 112th Inf surgeon, 11 Nov 44, in Combat 
Interv File 76 (hereafter cited as DeMarco Linguiti 
Rpt); Capt Linguiti, Report on Misuse of Aid Station 
Site, to 112th Inf surgeon, 16 Nov 44, in Combat 
Interv File 76 (hereafter cited as Linguiti Rpt). 



it was planned to displace the other two 
firing batteries, later developments show- 
ed that proper support could be given 
from the original locations. 15 Company 
B, 86th Chemical Battalion, in direct 
support of the 112th Infantry, fired only 
seventy-one high explosive and sixty- 
three white phosphorous rounds during 
the day, while Company C, in general 
support of the entire division, smoked the 
open ridges around Strauch and Stecken- 
born to the southwest of Schmidt. 
Company D was scheduled to follow the 
3d Battalion, 112th Infantry, in its early 
morning attack, but in the open between 
Germeter and Vossenack the mortar men 
were pinned down by enemy machine 
gun, mortar, and small arms fire from 
the woods north of Vossenack. With 
tank support, the company was finally 
able to move into firing positions near 
Bosselbach Farm. There the enemy fire 
continued, and the chemical mortar men 
were forced to defend their position with 
rifles and bazookas throughout the 
night. 16 

Vossenack 

While the 3d and 1st Battalions ad- 
vanced to Schmidt and Kommerscheidt, 
the 2d Battalion, bothered but little by 
enemy artillery the first night in its 
Vossenack ridge positions, retained its 
defensive role. The men noted an in- 
crease in enemy shelling on 3 November, 
and those on the forward slopes of the 
exposed ridge discovered they could not 
move from their holes in daylight without 
drawing the fury of enemy artillery and 
mortars. The ridge became more and 

15 28th Div Arty Jnl, 3 Nov 44; V Corps Study, 
Arty Sec. 

" 86th Cml Bn AAR, Nov 44. 



286 



THREE BATTLES 



more pock-marked with the eruption of 
shells, many of them from self-propelled 
guns on the Brandenberg-Bergstein ridge, 
and the building housing the battalion 
command post was hit several times. 
The supporting tanks of Captain West's 
Company C, 707th Tank Battalion, re- 
mained inside the town, seeking cover 
alongside the battered buildings. Com- 
munications to the rear were difficult, 
heavy shelling cutting telephone wires 
almost as soon as they were put in. Night 
brought intermittent relief from the shell- 
ing and became a period of almost frantic 
resupply. 17 Sometime during the day 
the 2d Battalion was ordered by regiment 
to send one platoon east into the Kail 
gorge to secure the north-south river road 
north of the Kail trail, but for some 
unexplained reason the mission was not 
carried out. 18 

The Engineers and the Kali Trail 

In close support of the 112th Infantry's 
Schmidt attack was the 20th Engineer 
Combat Battalion of the 1171st Engineer 
Combat Group. The battalion's mission 
was the development and maintenance 
of a main supply route from Germeter 
through Vossenack, across the Kail River, 
and on to Kommerscheidt and Schmidt. 
{Map 22) Company B, 20th Engineers, 
was to be responsible for opening and 
maintaining a one-way road from Richel- 
skaul to Vossenack to the Kail River 



17 Combat Interv 75 with Condon, Beggs, Pruden, 
Nesbitt, Cascarano, Johnson, Crain, Kauffman, 
Nelson, and 1st Lt Melvin R. Barrilleaux, CO, Co 
Rj 112th Inf. 

is Overlay, 112thInftoCO 2d Bn, 3 Nov 44, 112th 
Inf S 3 Jnl and File, 3 Nov 44. Although the situa- 
tion overlay for 4 Nov, 1 1 2th Inf G-3 File, 4 Nov 44, 
shows this platoon in position, it is not supported by 
either journals or interviews. 



bridge, while Company A was charged 
with bridging the Kail, if necessary, and 
opening and maintaining a one-way road 
from the river through Kommerscheidt 
to Schmidt. Company C was to be held 
in battalion reserve in the woods west of 
Germeter with the stipulation that it not 
be committed except with approval of 
the group commander. Battalion head- 
quarters was to furnish three recon- 
naissance teams, each composed of an 
officer, an SCR 300 operator, and an 
additional man for security. 

Attack planning had decreed that, 
because of the expected poor condition 
of the Kail trail and exposed nature of 
the Vossenack ridge, engineer vehicles 
(with the exception of three-quarter-ton 
weapons carriers and quarter-ton jeeps) 
could not accompany the leading en- 
gineer troops. To meet this problem, a 
forward tool dump was established in the 
woods just northwest of Richelskaul. 
Engineer troops near by were to be on 
the alert to hand-carry the proper tools 
and equipment after preliminary recon- 
naissance should determine the type 
needed. 

The first information that the engineers 
could go into action came on the morning 
of 3 November with a message that a 
street clearance project in Vossenack 
needed attention. Capt. Edwin M. 
Lutz, commander of Company B, 20th 
Engineers, and Capt. Joseph W. Miller, 
battalion liaison officer, went forward 
with a platoon of Company B and a 
reconnaissance team, reaching the Vosse- 
nack church about 1300. When they 
found the road leading south toward the 
Kali from the church blocked by two 
disabled American tanks (probably those 
of Captain West and Lieutenant Novak) 
and a fallen wall, leaving only enough 




AM? 22 



288 



THREE BATTLES 



space for a jeep to pass, the Company B 
engineer platoon began immediately to 
clear a path around the block. 

At a company command post of the 
2d Battalion, 112th Infantry, Captain 
Miller and Captain Lutz were informed 
that the Kali River bridge shown on 
their maps did not exist but that the 
river was fordable, provided corduroy 
was supplied for the approaches. Radio- 
ing back to the tool dump for another 
platoon of Company B to come forward, 
Lutz and Miller left on foot for a recon- 
naissance of the bridge site. After the 
trail from Vossenack entered the woods, 
it became very steep, and a weasel with 
a thrown track (Lieutenant Muglia's 
abandoned weasel) blocked the narrow 
route. The trail was a kind of shelf, a 
dirt wall with rock obstructions rising 
on the right. On the left the bank 
dropped off sharply. It would be a 
tight squeeze for tanks, the two captains 
calculated, but once the weasel was re- 
moved tanks might pass by hugging the 
right bank. At the bridge site itself they 
found that, contrary to the information 
they had received, there was a Class 30 
stone arch bridge in good condition. 19 

The two engineer officers returned to 
Vossenack about 1600 and reported their 
findings to Company A of the 707th Tank 
Battalion. The tank company com- 
mander, Capt. Bruce M. Hostrup, and 
his men, whose fire had been masked by 
the advance of Company K, 112th Infan- 

19 Combat interviews do not make clear that the 
bridge was checked for demolitions, but in Colonel 
Daley's letter to the Historical Division he says that, 
in compliance with the engineer plan, engineers of 
103d Engineer Combat Battalion should have been 
with the assault battalions and presumably did the 
checking. A Class 30 bridge, capable of supporting 
a load of approximately thirty tons, could be expected 
to meet the weight requirements put on it by an 
infantry division. 



try, into Kommerscheidt about 1300 (3 
November), had taken cover in a slight 
defilade around the southernmost houses 
of Vossenack. On hearing that the trail 
across the Kail gorge was passable, 
Hostrup with one of his tank platoons 
raced across the open southern slope to 
the woods line in the gathering darkness. 
He then halted the platoon and went 
forward in his command tank to test the 
trail. 

About a quarter of the way from the 
woods line to the river Captain Hostrup 
found the trail becoming narrow, precipi- 
tous, and slippery. The trail's left shoul- 
der, which dropped sharply toward the 
draw, began to give way under the weight 
of the tank. Although the road was nine 
feet wide, so was the tank, and rocky 
formations jutting out of the right bank 
confined movement to the trail itself. 
The tank slipped and almost plunged off 
the left bank into the draw. Reversing 
his tank, Captain Hostrup returned to 
his platoon at the woods line and reported 
to his battalion commander that the trail 
was still impassable. About 1900 the 
battalion commander, Lt. Col. Richard 
W. Ripple, radioed that the engineers 
were to work on the trail all night and 
that Captain Hostrup's tanks should be 
ready to move through to Schmidt at 
dawn. The tankers returned to the 
slight defilade near the southern edge of 
Vossenack, and spent an uncomfortable 
night. Throughout the hours of dark- 
ness, considerable enemy artillery and 
mortar fire plagued them. Shell frag- 
ments blew off sirens and headlights and 
perforated bed rolls and shelter halves 
on the outside of the tanks. 

Sometime during the afternoon, as 
Captain Hostrup's tankers had waited 
for word that the trail across the Kali 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



289 



was open, one of the tanks had thrown a 
track and another had bellied on a sharp 
ridge in the open south of Vossenack. 
These mishaps together with the loss of 
Lieutenant Clark's tank (immobilized by 
a mine in eastern Vossenack at the start 
of the 3 November attack) left the tank 
company with only thirteen of its original 
sixteen tanks when it had to move 
forward at daybreak. 20 

To the engineers the approach of dusk 
gave an opportunity to cross the open 
ridge without danger of receiving ob- 
served enemy artillery fire. Led by 2d 
Lt. Robert E. Huston, the B Company 
platoon that had been working on the 
Vossenack road block moved down into 
the woods with instructions to remove 
the damaged weasel. With picks and 
shovels, the engineers were to clear the 
road as best they could by morning. 
They knew from preliminary planning 
that they would have to provide their 
own security while working: the infantry 
would not take time to mop up in the 
woods and would leave no troops there 
for defense. 

Another platoon of Company B, under 
1st Lt. George E. Horn, arrived shortly 
after Lieutenant Huston's platoon had 
moved out, but it holed up for the night 
in Vossenack. Captain Miller and Cap- 
tain Lutz returned to their battalion 
command post to report the situation 
(including their belief that the road was 
passable for tanks as it stood) and to 
request a bulldozer in order to whittle 
down some of the right bank and widen 
the trail. From six miles in the rear, 
both a bulldozer and an air compressor 
reached the work site about 0230. By 
this time Lieutenant Huston's men had 

20 Combat Interv 75 with Hostrup-Fleig-Payne, 
Lutz. 



pushed the damaged weasel from the 
trail by hand. The bulldozer proved of 
little value, for after about one hour's 
work it broke a cable and could not be 
used further. 

Meanwhile, late in the afternoon, in- 
formation had reached Company A, 20th 
Engineers, that it could proceed to its 
work beyond the Kali, and the company 
moved toward Vossenack. As the men 
crossed the open space between Germeter 
and Vossenack, small arms and artillery 
fire killed one engineer and wounded 
another. In Vossenack, the main body 
of the company waited while the 2d 
Platoon under 2d Lt. Robert K. Pierce 
reconnoitered the bridge site and as far 
as it could toward Schmidt. 

Lieutenant Pierce and his men re- 
turned about 2230 with news that the 
bridge was in good condition. They had 
gone as far as the positions of Company 
C, 112th Infantry, at the top of the hill 
east of the river. The road, said the 
platoon leader, was clear except for some 
debris and abatis and possible mines. 
Under no apparent pressure except to 
get the trail open by daylight, Company 
A remained in Vossenack for several 
hours, suffering three men wounded and 
another killed by enemy artillery as it 
did so. At 0200 the 1st Platoon under 
1st Lt. John O. Webster went out with 
mine detectors to clear the trail from the 
river toward Schmidt, and the remainder 
of the company joined the 1st Platoon 
beyond the river at approximately 0600. 21 

21 Engr story from Combat Interv 75 with the 
following: Daley; Lt Col James F. White, Ex Off, 
1171st Engr (C) Gp; T/4 James A. Krieder, Co A, 
20th Engr (C) Bn; Maj Bernard P. McDonnell, S-3, 
20th Engr (C) Bn; Lutz; Capt Henry R. Doherty, 
CO, Co A, 20th Engr (C) Bn. See also Maj Bernard 
P. McDonnell, Rpt of Bn Activity from 29 Oct-9 
Nov 44, 14 Nov 44 (hereafter cited as McDonnell 



290 



THREE BATTLES 



About midnight an infantry supply 
train of three M-29 weasels loaded with 
rations, ammunition, and sixty antitank 
mines negotiated the supply trail across 
the Kali and moved on to Schmidt. 
Since capture of the division objective 
some ten to fifteen hours earlier, very 
little had been done to improve the ad- 
mittedly precarious supply line that led 
to Schmidt. No vehicular traffic other 
than the three supply train weasels 
managed to get through on the night of 
3 November. 22 

The Night in Schmidt 

The men of the 3d Battalion, 112th 
Infantry, who had found their afternoon 
entry into Schmidt virtually uncontested, 
suspended their mop-up operations short- 
ly after dark because of the darkness and 
the necessity for readying their defense. 
Sniper fire continued to hamper defensive 
efforts the remainder of the night, and 
Company L drew some machine gun fire 
from the uncleared houses along the 
southeastern Hasenfeld road. But in 
general the night was quiet, and the 
infantrymen felt a natural buoyancy over 
their easy afternoon success. 

Company L established its 3d Platoon 
astride the Hasenfeld road to the south- 

Rpt); Statement, Capt Lutz, relative to the opn of the 
engr plan, n.d. (hereafter cited as Lutz Statement); 
Statement, Capt Doherty, relative to opn of engr 
plan, n.d. (hereafter cited as Doherty Statement); 
Statement, Capt Miller, relative to engr opns 2-3 
Nov 44, n.d. (hereafter cited as Miller Statement); 
Lt Col J. E. Sonnefield, CO, 20th Engr (C) Bn, 
Personal Opn Rpt on Bn Activities from 29 Oct- 10 
Nov 44, 14 Nov 44 (hereafter cited as Sonnefield 
Rpt); Statement, Col Sonnefield, relative to opn of 
the engr plan, 6-10 Nov 44, n.d. (hereafter cited as 
Sonnefield Statement). All in Combat Interv File 
75. 

22 Combat Interv 75 with Dana; V Corps Study, 
G-4 Sec. 



east, its 2d on the left of the 3d, and its 
1st Platoon on the 2d's left at the Har- 
scheidt road on the northeast. {Map 23) 
The company's two light machine guns 
and a section of heavy machine guns from 
Company M were tied into the defense, 
and contact patrols operated between 
rifle platoons in order to cover the 
assigned ground adequately. 



Company K, whose aggressive move- 
ment had landed the first American 
troops on the division objective, drew the 
defensive assignment on the south and 
southwest and placed its three rifle pla- 
toons on line to cover the Strauch road 
and the open area between the Strauch 
and Hasenfeld roads. With the com- 
pany went a section of heavy machine 
guns from Company M. Stray Ger- 
mans, apparently unaware that Schmidt 
had been captured, continued to wander 




MAP 23 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



291 



into the Company K positions from the 
southwest and were taken prisoner. All 
together Company K collected forty-five 
prisoners and placed them under guard 
in the basement of a house. They were 
to be removed after daylight by regimental 
military police. Occasional sniper fire 
and one or two light enemy shellings 
hampered Company K's night defense 
preparations, and the company com- 
mander, Captain O'Malley, was hit in 
the stomach by an enemy bullet. 

The reserve company, Company I, dug 
in on the north of town with its two rifle 
platoons and light machine gun section, 
one platoon extending Company L's left 
flank to the left rear and the other extend- 
ing Company K's right flank to the right 
rear. Because of the all-around nature 
of the Schmidt defense, Company I was 
reserve company in name only, and none 
of the three rifle companies had been 
able to hold out a support platoon. 

Company M's 81 -mm. mortars were 
emplaced in the yard of a house about 
one fourth of the distance from Schmidt 
to Kommerscheidt. Near by, facing 
northeast to assist one platoon of Com- 
pany I, was the remaining machine gun 
platoon of Company M. The mortar 
men dug in their weapons adequately 
but were so fatigued that they postponed 
digging individual foxholes and prepared 
to pass the night in a small building in 
the yard near their mortars. 

The battalion commander, Lt. Col. 
Albert Flood, in a pillbox along the 
Kommerscheidt road, which served as 
his command post, wanted to get tanks 
or tank destroyers, or even 57-mm. anti- 
tank guns, into the Schmidt positions 
before daylight; but the hours passed and 
no reinforcement arrived. The battalion 
had to content itself with the sixty anti- 



tank mines brought by the three-weasel 
supply convoy after midnight. The 
mines were placed on the three hard- 
surfaced main roads into the town. No 
camouflage was attempted, but organic 
bazookas and small arms fire covered 
the mines and defensive artillery fires 
were plotted around the town. Distribu- 
tion of the water and rations that arrived 
with the three-weasel convoy was to 
await daylight. 28 According to avail- 
able records, no staff officer or head- 
quarters representative of either the 1 12th 
Infantry or the 28th Division visited 
either Kommerscheidt or Schmidt during 
the night. 

109th and 110th Infantry Summaries 

Northwest of the 112th Infantry's sec- 
tor in the early morning of 3 November, 
the 3d Battalion, 109th Infantry, was 
renewing its attack to get through the 
mine field along the Wittscheidt-Huert- 
gen road and reach the woods line over- 
looking Huertgen. Just as the attack 
was beginning, the Germans counter- 
attacked the 1st Battalion, 109th Infan- 
try, in its woods-line positions west of 

23 Combat Interv 75 with Dana, Piercey, Walker, 
Ripperdam, Tyo, Toner, and 1st Lt Leon Simon, 
asst S-3, 3d Bn, 112th Inf; Interv with Barnett; 
Interv with S Sgt Robert E. Black, 1st Plat, Co I, 
112th Inf, Bradford, Pa., 22 Sep 48 (hereafter cited 
as Interv with Black); V Corps Study, G-3 and TD 
Sees. The V Corps Study says the Antitank Com- 
pany commander tried to get forward with three 
weasel-towed 57-mm. guns but could not because of 
the "blocked MSR," but other records show that 
the main supply route was never blocked until just 
before dawn, except for Lieutenant Muglia's medical 
weasel, which was removed shortly after dark. Al- 
though the 112th Infantry S-3 Jnl for this date 
indicates the battalion was in communication with 
regiment, no request for tanks is recorded. Such a 
request was sent to the rear by the three-weasel 
supply train, but this train obviously would not reach 
regiment until almost dawn or later. 



292 



THREE BATTLES 



the road. See Map 27.) Beginning 
about 0730 the enemy hit twice with 
approximately 200 men each time. Al- 
though both attacks were repulsed, the 
3d Battalion heard the battle and, mis- 
interpreting a message from regiment, 
sent two of its companies to the 1st 
Battalion's aid. These two companies 
then dug in behind the 1st Battalion 
while the remaining rifle company stayed 
at Wittscheidt. Since the 2d Battalion 
remained in reserve, the 109th Infantry's 
effort to complete its northern mission 
had thus been temporarily thwarted. 24 

In the woods to the south the 1st Bat- 
talion, 110th Infantry, was partially 
committed during the day in a defensive 
position along the Richelskaul-Raffels- 
brand road. It engaged in no offensive 
action, however, and was still considered 
division reserve. The 3d Battalion made 
two attacks during the day toward the 
southeast while the 2d Battalion hit again 
at the Raffelsbrand pillboxes, but neither 
battalion gained and both took heavy 
casualties. Later in the day General 
Cota, the division commander, ordered 
the HOth's 1st Battalion to move the next 
morning to Vossenack and attack due 
south to seize Simonskall. Such a move 
might be expected to weaken the Raffels- 
brand resistance by threatening the 
enemy rear. To fill the gap that would 
be left when the 1st Battalion moved out, 
Task Force Lacy was formed, consisting 
of a total of sixty-six men from the Anti- 
tank Mine Platoon, the Intelligence and 
Reconnaissance Platoon, and a special 
patrol group, all under 1st Lt. Virgil R. 
Lacy. Commitment of the HOth's 1st 



Battalion would leave the 28th Division 
with no infantry reserve. 25 

Air Support 

Although weather on 3 November 
again prevented any large-scale air sup- 
port, one armed reconnaissance mission 
by twelve P-47's of the 366th Fighter 
Group was over the target area at 1235 
and claimed three armored vehicles 
destroyed and three damaged northwest of 
Huertgen. The same squadron claimed 
a house believed to be a headquarters, 
five motor transports, and three motor- 
cycles destroyed northwest of Huertgen, 
three light flak positions destroyed north- 
east of Kleinhau (one mile northeast of 
Huertgen), a barracks strafed south of 
Heimbach, and a radio tower damaged 
in Kleinhau. Another squadron of the 
366th Group was prevented from attack- 
ing in the 28th Division area because 
of weather conditions. It dropped its 
bombs far afield in the Zuelpich area. 26 

The Enemy Situation 

On 2 November the Germans had met 
the American offensive with resistance 
from the 275th Division and plans for a 
Kampfgruppe of the 1 16th Panzer Division 
to join local reserves in a counterattack 
against the 109th Infantry's penetration 
northwest of Germeter. Utilizing ap- 
proximately 200 men (according to 
American estimates), the counterattack 
took place at dawn on 3 November but 
admittedly experienced little success. 



11 Combat Interv 77 with 109th Inf personnel; 
109th Inf S-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44; 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 
3 Nov 44. 



!5 Combat Interv 77 with 110th Inf personnel; 
110th Inf S-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44; 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 
3 Nov 44. 

* FUSA and IX TAC Sum, 3 Nov 44; V Corps 
Study, G-3 Air Sec; Combat Interv 74 with Howison. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



293 



The higher German commanders, still 
engaged in their map study at Schlender- 
han Castle, ordered one regimental com- 
bat team of the 116th Panzer Division to 
move immediately to the Huertgen area. 
The remainder of the division was to 
follow that night and the night of 4 
November. As a precautionary measure, 
major elements of one regimental combat 
team of the 89th Division, which had begun 
to move out of the line for refitting after 
being relieved by advance elements of 
the 272d Division, were held at Harscheidt, 
northeast of Schmidt, since the American 
attack now appeared to be aimed in that 
direction. The map conference was dis- 
continued at noon. 

When Schmidt itself was captured by 
the Americans during the afternoon, 
elements of the 1055th Regiment of the 
89th Division waited at Harscheidt and 
prepared for commitment. The 3d Bat- 
talion, 1055th Regiment, dug defensive posi- 
tions astride the Harscheidt-Schmidt 
road and that night sent reconnaissance 
patrols toward Schmidt. The 2d Bat- 
talion, 1055th Regiment, had not completed 
its move from the west to Harscheidt; 
when it did arrive in the vicinity before 
daylight on 4 November, it took position 
astride the Schmidt-Strauch road west 
of Schmidt. Several prisoners captured 
on 3 November by other units of V 
Corps had indicated that this German 
regiment was in process of relief, and the 
28th Division had been so informed. 

When details of the 112th Infantry's 
success at Schmidt reached Seventh Army, 
a dawn counterattack on 4 November was 
ordered to eliminate the American ad- 
vance. It was to be launched by the 
1055th Regiment, assisted by assault guns 
and an armored group of about twenty 
to thirty tanks from the 116th Panzer 



Division's tank regiment, 16th Panzer 
Regiment, which had already been en route 
south and now was moved quickly to the 
Harscheidt area. 

Meanwhile, the 60th Panzer Grenadier 
Regiment (116th Panzer Division) reached 
the Huertgen area and laid plans to 
counterattack at dawn on 4 November 
against the 109th Infantry's penetration 
north of Germeter. Because of the diffi- 
culties of terrain and their own mine 
fields, the Germans planned to commit 
the 116th Panzer Division's grenadier regi- 
ments on the north flank of the American 
bulge as infantry. A sizable part of its 
tank regiment was to fight with the 89th 
Division around Schmidt and Kommer- 
scheidt. 27 

Summary for 3 November and 
Night of 3-4 November 

Since the 28th Division had no knowl- 
edge of these extensive German prepara- 
tions, the 112th Infantry's situation as 
daylight approached on 4 November 
looked surprisingly good. Its 3d Bat- 
talion had moved with almost amazing 
facility to the division objective, Schmidt; 
its 1st Battalion had advanced and 
halted in Kommerscheidt and along the 
woods line to the north of Kommer- 
scheidt; and its 2d Battalion had held and 



27 MSS # A-891 and A-892 (Gersdorff); MS 
# A-905 (Waldenburg); ETHINT 53 (Gersdorff); 
ETHINT 56 (Gersdorff and Waldenburg); Sit Rpts, 
2-4 Nov 44, found in OB WEST KTB Anlagen 

I. -10.XI.44; 28th Div G-2 File, Nov 44; Order of 
the Day commemorating the battles of Kommer- 
scheidt and Schmidt, entitled "Division Review of 
the 89th Division" (hereafter cited as 89th Division 
Order of the Day). This captured document is 
available only in translation by V Corps IPW Team 

II, as reproduced by Maj. Henry P. Halsell in his 
unpublished manuscript, Huertgen Forest and the 
Roer River Dams. 



294 



THREE BATTLES 



consolidated its defenses in Vossenack. 
Supporting engineers had begun work 
on the main supply route through the 
Kali valley, although their work thus far 
had been minor; and a company of tanks 
was poised to move over the Kail trail 
at dawn to join the Schmidt defense. 
Another company of tanks was present 
to aid the Vossenack defense. 

The division picture was not so bright, 
because two stubborn interrelated facts 
persisted: abominable weather was pre- 
venting isolation of the battlefield by 
air — indeed, preventing all but minor air 
activity; although no major enemy armor 
had been sighted and prospects were 
good for getting American tanks to 
Schmidt, those American tanks still were 
not there. The 109th Infantry to the 
north had experienced limited success; 
the 110th Infantry to the south had made 
no gains. 

It was logical to assume that, if the 



Germans were going to hit back against 
the forces across the Kail, they would 
have to strike soon. Otherwise the 28th 
Division would be ready to start its push 
to the southwest toward Strauch and 
Steckenborn; in fact, a G-3 letter of 
instructions the night of 3 November 
initiated plans for such a push. 28 Al- 
ready the capture of Schmidt had cut the 
enemy's supply line to troops manning 
the forts north of Monschau, and it would 
be illogical to expect the Germans to 
accept this situation with only a minor 
display of resistance. 



28 28th Div G-3 Jnl and File, 3 Nov 44. Despite 
his division's early success at Schmidt, General Cota 
never actually expected to be able to execute this 
second phase of the attack without assistance. With 
all his troops already committed, he had no unit with 
which to attack toward Strauch and Steckenborn 
unless he took the 1st and 3d Battalions, 112th, 
thus leaving what would become the 112th's rear 
(Schmidt and Kommerscheidt) completely unde- 
fended. See Interv with Cota. 



CHAPTER III 



Action at Schmidt 

(4 November) 



Tanks Try To Cross the Kail 

Before daylight the next morning (4 
November), the tankers of Captain 
Hostrup's Company A, 707th Tank Bat- 
talion, warmed up their motors for 
another try at traversing the precipitous 
trail across the river. The 1st Platoon, 
commanded by 1st Lt. Raymond E. 
Fleig in the forward tank, was to lead. 

Lieutenant Fleig's tank had only just 
entered the woods and begun to advance 
along the slippery narrow woods trail 
when it was jarred suddenly by an explo- 
sion. It had struck a mine which had 
evidently gone undetected when the 
engineers had swept the road. Although 
no one was injured, the mine disabled a 
track, and the tank partially blocked the 
trail. IMap 24) \ 

The platoon sergeant, S. Sgt. Anthony 
R. Spooner, suggested winching the other 
tanks around Lieutenant Fleig's immobil- 
ized tank. Using the tow cable from 
Fleig's tank and the tank itself as a pivot, 
Spooner winched his own second tank 
around and back onto the narrow trail. 
Fleig boarded what now became the lead 
tank and continued down the trail, 
directing Sergeant Spooner to repeat the 
process to get the remaining three tanks 
of the platoon around the obstacle. 

As Lieutenant Fleig continued to inch 
his tank down the dark trail, sharp curves 



in the road which had not been revealed 
in previous map studies necessitated much 
stopping and backing. The lieutenant 
noticed that his tank was tearing away 
part of the thin left shoulder of the trail 
but considered the damage not serious 
enough to hold up vehicles in his rear. 
With slow, painstaking effort, he made 
his way toward the river, crossed the 
bridge, and proceeded up the opposite 
slope. There the route presented little 
difficulty except for three switchbacks 
where Fleig had to dismount and direct 
his driver. It was just beginning to grow 
light when his tank churned alone into 
Kommerscheidt. 

Back at the start of the wooded portion 
of the trail, Sergeant Spooner succeeded 
in winching the three remaining tanks of 
the platoon around the disabled tank. 
Sgt. Jack L. Barton's tank in the lead 
came to a sharp bend made even more 
precarious by a large outcropping of rock 
from the right bank. Despite all efforts 
at caution, Barton's tank partially threw 
a track and was stopped. Captain 
Hostrup came forward to determine the 
difficulty and directed the next tank in 
line under Sergeant Spooner to tow 
Sergeant Barton's lead tank back onto the 
trail. The expedient worked, and the 
track was righted. Using Spooner's 
tank as an anchor, Barton successfully 
rounded the curve. When he in turn 



296 



THREE BATTLES 




anchored the rear tank, it too passed the 
obstacle and both tanks continued. 

Making contact with Lieutenant Hus- 
ton, whose engineer platoon from Com- 
pany B, 20th Engineers, was working on 
the trail, Captain Hostrup asked that the 
engineers blow off the projecting rock. 
The lieutenant had no demolitions, but 
he made use of three German Teller 
mines that had previously been removed 
from the trail. The resulting explosion 
did little more than nick the sharpest 
projection of the rock. 

The last tank in line, Sgt. James J. 



Markey's, in spite of difficulty with a 
crumbling left bank, arrived at the rock 
outcropping a few minutes later. The 
engineer platoon assisted in guiding it 
safely around the bend. Although four 
tanks were now past the initial obstacles 
of the narrow trail, the last three had 
some distance to go before they would be 
in a position to assist the defense of 
Kommerscheidt and Schmidt. It was 
still not quite daylight. 1 



1 Combat Interv 76 with Hostrup-Fleig Payne and 
Ripple. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



297 



Action at Schmidt 

Sunrise on 4 November was at 0732. 
A few minutes before came the noise of 
enemy artillery pieces opening fire, and 
a hail of shells began to crash among the 
hastily prepared defenses in the southern 
edge of Schmidt. The shelling walked 
back and forth through the town for 
more than thirty minutes. Coming from 
at least three directions — northeast, east, 
and southeast — the fire was so intense 
that it seemed to many of the infantry 
defenders to originate from every angle. 

In line to meet the expected enemy 
counterattack the 3d Battalion, 112th 
Infantry, as previously noted, was in a 
perimeter defense of the town. (Map 
VX) 2 \ To the east and southeast Company 
L defended the area between the Har- 
scheidt and Hasenfeld roads. To the 
south and southwest was Company K 
between the Hasenfeld and Strauch 
roads. Company I, with only two rifle 
platoons and its light machine gun sec- 
tion, had its 2d Platoon on the north and 
its 3d Platoon on the northwest. A sec- 
tion of heavy machine guns from Com- 
pany M was with Company L and 
another with Company K, while the 
remaining heavy machine gun platoon 
was on the north edge of town covering 
an open field and wooded draw to the 
north near the 2d Platoon, Company I. 
The 81 -mm. mortars were dug in on the 
northern edge of town near the machine 
gun platoon, and the battalion command 
post was in a pillbox just west of the 
Kommerscheidt road 300 yards from 
Schmidt. Antitank defense consisted of 



s No overlays or maps showing the disposition of 
the 3d Bn, 112th Inf, can be found. Positions and 
movement as shown on ^lap IX] are approximate as 
determined from unit journals and combat interviews. 



uncamouflaged mines hastily strung across 
the Harscheidt, Hasenfeld, and Strauch 
roads and covered with small arms and 
organic bazookas. 

Probably the first to sight enemy forces 
was Company I's 2d Platoon on the left 
of the Harscheidt road. Shortly after 
dawn a runner reported to Capt. Ray- 
mond R. Rokey at the company CP that 
observers had spotted some sixty enemy 
infantry in a patch of thin woods about 
a thousand yards northeast of Schmidt, 
seemingly milling around forming for an 
attack. Having no communication with 
his platoons except by runner, Captain 
Rokey left immediately for the 2d Platoon 
area. Although the artillery forward 
observer at Company I's CP promptly 
put in a call for artillery fire, for some 
reason the call produced no result until 
much later. 3 

Company M machine gunners with 
the left flank of Company L on the east 
fired on ten or fifteen enemy soldiers who 
emerged from the woods and dashed for 
a group of houses at Zubendchen, a 
settlement north of the Harscheidt road. 
From here the Germans evidently in- 
tended to regroup and make their way 
into Schmidt. A section of 81 -mm. 
mortars directed its fire at the houses, 
scoring at least one or two direct hits, 
and observers saw Germans crawling 
back toward the woods. 

Other enemy infantrymen continued 
to advance from the northeast. Com- 
pany I's 2d platoon employed its small 

3 Combat Interv 75 with Toner; 28th Div Arty 
Jnl, 4 Nov 44; V Corps Study, Signal Sec. The V 
Corps Study quotes the division artillery communica- 
tions officer as saying that no request for fire failed 
to be transmitted during the entire Schmidt opera- 
tion. This artillery forward observer with Company 
I was killed, and reason for failure of artillery in this 
instance cannot be determined. 



298 



THREE BATTLES 




KALL TRAIL SUPPLY ROUTE between Vossenack and Kommet Scheldt on Vossenack 
side of gorge. Note thrown tank tracks on the right. 



arms weapons to repulse a wavering, 
un-co-ordinated effort, preceded by light 
mortar fire, which was launched against 
its northeast position, possibly by the 
group seen earlier readying for an 
attack. 

A heavier assault struck almost simul- 
taneously against the right-flank position 
of Company L along the Hasenfeld road 
on the southeast. Automatic riflemen 
with the defending platoon opened up as 
the enemy crossed a small hill to the 
front. A German machine gun less than 
fifty yards away at the base of a building 



in the uncleared southeastern edge of 
Schmidt returned the fire. When a 
squad leader, S. Sgt. Frank Ripperdam, 
crawled forward with several of his men 
until he was almost on top of the enemy 
gun, five enemy soldiers jumped up, 
yelling in English, "Don't shoot! Don't 
shoot!" Sergeant Ripperdam and two 
other men stood up to accept the ex- 
pected surrender, only to have the Ger- 
mans jump back quickly into their 
emplacement and open fire with the 
machine gun. Dropping again to the 
ground, the sergeant directed a rifle 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



299 




KALL TRAIL SUPPLY ROUTE with Kommerscheidt side of gorge in the background. 



grenadier to fire at the machine gun. 
Ripperdam saw the grenade hit at least 
two of the Germans, but still the machine 
gun fired. One of the Company L men 
suddenly sprang erect and ran forward 
behind the slight concealment of a sparse 
hedgerow, firing his rifle in a one-man 
assault. The Germans shifted their gun 
and raked his body with fire, killing him 
instantly. Sergeant Ripperdam and the 
remaining men withdrew to their de- 
fensive ring, but the Germans too had 
evidently been discouraged, for there was 
no more fire from the position. 

Holding the enemy to their front with 



small arms and mortar fire, the men on 
Company L's right flank could see Ger- 
mans infiltrating on their right through 
the Company K positions. An enemy 
machine gun opened fire from a road 
junction near the uncleared houses on 
the Hasenfeld road and prevented even 
the wounded from crossing the street to 
the north to reach the company medics. 
On all sides of Schmidt except the north 
the enemy was now attacking. 

Supporting artillery of the 229th Field 
Artillery Battalion was engaged in haras- 
sing fires until 0823 when the air observa- 
tion post called for and received twelve 



300 



THREE BATTLES 



rounds on enemy personnel in the vicinity 
of Harscheidt. A previous call from 
the forward observer with Company I 
still had produced no results. At 0850 
American artillery joined the battle with 
its first really effective defensive fires, 216 
rounds of TOT on a concentration of 
enemy tanks to the east, just south of the 
Harscheidt^Schmidt road. From that 
time on, artillery played its part in the 
battle, the 229th alone firing 373 rounds 
until 1000, and supporting corps artillery 
and the 108th Field Artillery Battalion 
of 155's joining the defense. 4 

Enemy tanks suddenly entered the 
battle, obviously determined to exploit 
the minor successes won by the advance 
infantry. With the tanks came other 
German infantry: five tanks and a bat- 
talion of infantry were reported along the 
Harscheidt road and another five tanks 
and battalion of infantry along the 
Hasenfeld road. 5 

The defenders of the two main roads 
opened up with their rocket launchers, 
but the enemy tanks rumbled effortlessly 
on, firing their big guns into foxholes and 
buildings with blasts whose concussion 
could kill if the shell fragments did not. 
On the Hasenfeld road, at least one 
Company L bazooka scored a hit on one 



« 28th Div Arty Jnl, 4 Nov 44. Battery C, 229th, 
displaced forward on 3 November, and no breakdown 
on its firing for 4 November is available. During the 
entire period between 0600 of 4 November and 0600 
of 5 November Battery C did fire a total of 1 89 rounds; 
therefore some of these rounds would have come 
during the period mentioned here. 

5 This estimate of enemy force is based primarily 
on American estimates in combat interviews in 
OCMH, but agrees basically with German material 
except that the Germans made no mention of an 
attack from the direction of Hasenfeld. These troops 
may have come originally from Harscheidt and in 
the course of the attack moved over to the Hasenfeld 
road. 



of the tanks; it stopped only briefly, 
swung off to one side, and clanked on 
its methodically destructive way. Such 
seeming immunity demoralized the men 
who saw it. 

The attack against Company K on the 
south had spilled over to the southwest, 
and was joined by other enemy infantry 
attacking from the west. Company I's 
3d Platoon on the right of the Strauch 
road found itself under assault. A runner 
reported the situation to Captain Rokey, 
the company commander, who was still 
with his hard-pressed 2d Platoon on the 
north. Rokey sent word back for the 3d 
Platoon to withdraw from its foxholes in 
the open field to the cover of the houses. 

Along the Harscheidt and Hasenfeld 
roads the German tanks spotted the 
feeble rows of mines, disdainfully pulled 
off to the sides, and skirted them. Then 
they were among the buildings of the 
town and the foxholes of the defenders, 
systematically pumping round after round 
into the positions. On the south and 
southwest the situation rapidly disinte- 
grated. Company K's defenses broke 
under the attack. 

American riflemen streamed from their 
foxholes into the woods to the southwest. 
As they sought relief from the pounding 
they moved, perhaps unwittingly, farther 
into German territory. They were joined 
in their flight by some men from Com- 
pany L. 

Another Company K group of about 
platoon size retreated into the Company 
L sector and there told a platoon leader 
that the Germans had knocked out one 
of Company K's attached heavy machine 
guns and captured the other. The 
enemy had completely overrun the com- 
pany's positions. 

The Company L platoon leader sent 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



301 



three men to his company command 
post in the vicinity of the church in the 
center of town to get a better picture of 
the over-all situation. The men quickly 
returned, reporting that they had been 
prevented from reaching the company 
CP by fire from Germans established in 
the church. The three men had the im- 
pression that everyone on their right had 
withdrawn. 

The enemy tanks plunged directly 
through the positions of the 1st Platoon, 
Company L, in the center of the com- 
pany's sector on the east. They overran 
the company's 60-mm. mortars and 
knocked out two of them with direct hits 
from their hull guns. Notifying the 
company command post that they could 
not hold, the Americans retreated to the 
woods on the southwest where they had 
seen Company K troops withdrawing. 

Now the retreat of small groups and 
platoons was turning into a disorderly 
general exodus. Captain Rokey ordered 
his 2d Platoon, Company I, to pull back 
to the protection of the buildings, but the 
enemy fire was so intense that control 
became virtually impossible. The men 
fled, not to the buildings as they had 
been ordered, but north and west over 
the open ground and into the woods in 
the direction of Kommerscheidt, there 
finding themselves intermingled with 
other fleeing members of the battalion. 
It was difficult to find large groups from 
one unit. 

In the Company K sector, 2d Lt. 
Richard Tyo, a platoon leader, had no- 
ticed the withdrawal of the company's 
machine gun section and 1st Platoon. 
On being told by the men that they had 
orders to withdraw, Lieutenant Tyo took 
charge and led them back through the 
houses of Schmidt toward the north and 



Kommerscheidt. On the way they passed 
two men from the company's 3d Platoon, 
one with a broken leg and the other lying 
wounded in his foxhole. The wounded 
men said their platoon had gone "that 
way" and pointed toward the woods to 
the southwest. Tyo and his group con- 
tinued north, however, and joined the 
confused men struggling to get back to 
Kommerscheidt. There was no time to 
take along the wounded. 

The headquarters groups of Companies 
L and K tried to form a line in the center 
of Schmidt, but even this small semblance 
of order was soon confusion again. Some- 
one in the new line said an order had 
come to withdraw, the word spread 
quickly, and none questioned its source. 
A Company K man remembered the 
forty-five prisoners in the near-by base- 
ment, and two men headed them back 
double-time toward Kommerscheidt. The 
other men joined the mass moving out 
of Schmidt. 

The 81 -mm. mortar platoon on the 
northern edge of town had received its 
first indication of counterattack shortly 
after daybreak when a round from an 
88-mm. gun crashed against the house 
near the dug-in mortars, seriously wound- 
ing a man outside the small building in 
which the mortar men were sleeping. 
The mortar men then joined in defensive 
fires on call from the rifle companies and 
were so intent on their job that they did 
not notice that the rifle companies were 
withdrawing. Well along in the morn- 
ing a lieutenant from Company I stopped 
at their position and told them the rifle 
companies had all fallen back and enemy 
tanks were only a few houses away. 
Carrying the seriously wounded man on 
a stretcher made from a ladder, the 
mortar men withdrew. Once the with- 



302 



THREE BATTLES 




GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR being escorted to the rear by military policemen on 
4 November. Forty-jive prisoners were captured the day before during the assault on Schmidt. 



drawal had begun, it lost all semblance 
of organization; each little group made 
its way back toward Kommerscheidt on 
its own. 

The time was now about 1000, and 
with or without orders Schmidt was being 
abandoned. The battalion commander 
notified those companies with whom he 
still had contact that the battalion CP 
was pulling its switchboard and that they 
should withdraw. 

Little could be done for the seriously 
wounded unable to join the retreat. The 
battalion aid station was far back, at the 



moment in the Kali River gorge. Sever- 
al company aid men stayed behind with 
the wounded to lend what assistance they 
could. The bodies of the dead were left 
where they had fallen. 

Most of the American troops who were 
to get out of Schmidt had evidently done 
so by about 1100, although an occasional 
straggler continued to emerge until about 
noon. By 1230 the loss of Schmidt was 
apparently recognized at 28th Division 
headquarters, for the air control officer 
directed the 396th Squadron of the 366th 
Group (P-47's) to attack the town. The 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



303 



squadron termed results of the bombing 
"excellent."« 

Struggle With the Main Supply Route 

While the 3d Battalion, 112th Infantry, 
was engaged in its battle for survival in 
Schmidt, other troops of the regiment 
and supporting units were engaged in 
activity which weighed heavily on the 
3d Battalion's battle. 

The 3d Battalion aid station had re- 
ceived a message from Colonel Flood, 
the battalion commander, at 0500 to dis- 
place forward from Germeter where, ex- 
cept for a forward collecting station under 
Lieutenant Muglia, it had remained even 
after its battalion had taken Schmidt. 
The aid station troops responded to the 
order by establishing themselves at the 
church in Vossenack while Muglia took 
some of the equipment and personnel on 
to the edge of the woods alongside the 
Kali trail. He had left one litter squad 
there the night before. Sending all avail- 
able litter bearers to comb the area for 
casualties, the lieutenant and T/3 John 
M. Shedio reconnoitered for an aid sta- 
tion site. 

Beside the trail about 300 yards from 
the Kail River, Muglia found a log dug- 



out approxi mately twelve by eighteen 



feet in size. \{See Map 24.)\ The entire 



6 The Schmidt counterattack has been recon- 
structed primarily from combat interviews, which are 
admittedly sketchy because of the confused situation 
and number of casualties among key personnel, both 
at the time and later, before they could be inter- 
viewed. Delay in information reaching the rear or 
failure to record it leaves the unit journals of little 
assistance. See Combat Interv 75 with Dana, 
Piercey, Toner, Ripperdam, Walker, Tyo; Intervs 
with Barnett, with Peterson, and with Black; 112th 
Inf 5-2 and S-3 Jnls, 4 Nov 44; 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 
4 Nov 44, 28th Div Arty Jnl, 4 Nov 44; V Corps 
Study, G-3, G-4, Signal and TD Sees. The air 
strike against Schmidt was set by the 28th Div G-3 
Jnl, 4 Nov 44, at 1236, and by FUSA and IX TAC 
Sum, 4 Nov 44, at 1230. 



dugout was underground except for a 
front partially barricaded with rocks. 
The roof had been constructed of two 
layers of heavy logs, thus providing ex- 
cellent protection from all shelling except 
direct hits. While the runner went back 
to Vossenack for the battalion surgeon, 
Capt. Michael DeMarco, and the re- 
mainder of the 3d Battalion medical per- 
sonnel, Lieutenant Muglia displayed a 
Red Cross panel at the cabin and pa- 
tients began to collect. An ambulance 
loading point was established at the trail's 
entrance into the woods. 7 

The three-weasel supply train which 
had reached Schmidt after midnight had 
been under the command of 1st Lt. 
William George, the 3d Battalion motor 
officer. Just before dawn the three wea- 
sels returned to Germeter, carrying those 
men who had been wounded in the 
Schmidt capture and mop-up. Lieuten- 
ant George then agreed to return to 
Schmidt with the battalion Antitank 
Platoon leader to take back a miscel- 
laneous load of ammunition. On reach- 
ing the entrance of the main supply 
route into the woods southeast of Vos- 
senack shortly after dawn, the party 
found the trail blocked by Lieutenant 
Fleig's abandoned tank. Although other 
tanks had previously passed this obstacle, 
the group gave up its supply attempt 
when the enemy shelled the area and one 
of the supply sergeants was killed. 8 

The abandoned tank gave trouble as 
well to those tanks of Company A, 707th 
Tank Battalion, which had not yet passed 
the initial obstacles of the supply route. 
Four had managed to get through (at 

7 Muglia Rpt; DeMarco-Linguiti Rpt. 

8 Combat Interv 75 with George. 



304 



THREE BATTLES 



least one was in Kommerscheidt at 
dawn), but the rest were still struggling 
with the narrow trail. The 2d Platoon, 
which had only three tanks left, began 
its journey before daylight. In S. Sgt. 
Anthony S. Zaroslinski's lead tank rode 
Lieutenant Clarke, whose own vehicle 
had been immobilized by a mine the 
day before in Vossenack. When his tank 
reached Fleig's abandoned tank, Sergeant 
Zaroslinski, unaware that the 1st Platoon 
had successfully bypassed the obstacle by 
winching its tanks around it, attempted 
to pass on the left. The venture ended 
disastrously: Zaroslinski's tank slipped off 
the road, and the sergeant found himself 
unable to back it up because of the steep 
and slippery incline. The crew dis- 
mounted to investigate, and enemy shells 
struck home, killing Zaroslinski and 
wounding Lieutenant Clarke. 

Sgt. Walton R. Allen, commanding 
the next tank in column, decided to try 
squeezing between the two disabled 
tanks, using Sergeant Zaroslinski's tank 
as a buffer on the left to keep his own 
tank from sliding into the draw. Suc- 
ceeding, he dismounted and turned his 
tank over to Sgt. Kenneth E. Yarman, 
who commanded the next tank in the 
column. Allen then led Yarman's tank 
through, boarded it, and continued down 
the trail. 

Sergeant Yarman, now commanding 
the lead tank of the 2d Platoon, reached 
the bend where the rock outcropping 
made passage so difficult. As he tried 
to pass, his tank slipped off the left of the 
trail and threw its left track. The next 
tank under Sergeant Allen reached a 
point short of the outcropping and also 
slipped off the trail to the left, throwing 
both its tracks. About the same time, 
Sergeant Markey, who commanded the 



last tank of the leading 1st Platoon and 
was presumably already past the Kail, 
reported back to his company com- 
mander, Captain Hostrup, at the rock 
outcropping. His tank had gotten stuck 
near the bottom of the gorge and had 
also thrown a track. 

Only one tank, commanded by Lieu-, 
tenant Fleig, had reached Kommer- 
scheidt. Two others were now past the 
river. But behind them and full on the 
vital trail sat five disabled tanks. Still 
farther to the rear and waiting to come 
forward were the four tanks of the 3d 
Platoon. While the armor remained 
stymied on the Kail trail, precious time 
was slipping by. For some time now the 
crewmen had been hearing the battle 
noises from Schmidt, and by 1100 oc- 
casional stragglers from the Schmidt 
battle had begun to pass them going 
toward the rear. 9 

Still working with hand tools on the 
Kail trail were Lieutenant Huston's pla- 
toon from Company B, 20th Engineers, 
and all of Company A, 20th Engineers. 
Five Germans surrendered voluntarily to 
Company A's security guards as the unit 
worked east of the river. Occasional 
enemy artillery fire wounded six of its 
men. Huston's Company B platoon, 
informed by the tankers that they thought 
they could replace the tracks on their 
disabled tanks without too much delay, 
worked to repair the damage done by 
the tanks to the delicate left bank of the 
trail. Although almost twenty- four hours 
had elapsed since Company K, 112th 
Infantry, had first entered Schmidt, 
higher commanders still seemed unaware 
of the poor condition of the Kail trail. 
Only one engineer company and an ad- 



Combat Interv 76 with Hostrup-Fleig-Payne. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



305 



ditional platoon, equipped with hand 
tools and an air compressor but no demo- 
litions, were working on the trail, and no 
one was blocking the north-south river 
road, both ends of which led into enemy 
territory. 10 

While the struggle with obstacles on 
the supply route went on and while the 
battle raged in Schmidt, the 2d Battalion, 
112th Infantry, continued to hold its 
Vossenack ridge defenses. An enemy 
patrol in force hit Company F at ap- 
proximately 0630 but was beaten off with 
small arms fire and artillery support on 
call from the 229th Field Artillery Bat- 
talion. 11 When daylight came, the de- 
fenders had to steel their nerves against 
relentless enemy shelling. It seemed to 
the soldiers forward of Vossenack that 
the enemy concentrated his fire on each 
foxhole until he believed its occupants 

10 Combat Interv 75 with Lutz, Doherty; Sonne- 
field Rpt; Sonnefield Statement. There was evi- 
dently confusion as to who was responsible for 
defending the two flanks of the vital Kail trail. 
While infantry commanders seemed to think this a 
job assigned the engineers, the engineers interpreted 
the direction of providing their own security to mean 
close-in security as their men worked. Colonel 
Peterson provides a possible explanation for the con- 
fusion in pointing out that originally the 112th 
Infantry was to have placed a number of defensive 
outposts to block both ends of the Kali gorge, but 
division had approved cancellation of this plan before 
the attack started to permit the 1 12th its full strength 
for the Schmidt attack. The resulting increased need 
for greater engineer security measures was evidently 
not understood by the engineers. See Interv with 
Peterson. Par. Ib(3) from the Engineer Plan, 30 
October 1944, makes the engineer position clear: 
"Due to disposition of friendly troops it is possible 
for enemy patrols to infiltrate through our lines . . . 
especially . . . during the hours of darkness. Local 
security will be required." (Italics supplied.) 

11 Combat Interv 75 with Kauffman. Although 
several enemy patrols hit the 2d Battalion during its 
stay in Vossenack, records are hopelessly confused on 
the times and number of such patrols. For this 
reason, no further mention is made in this narrative 
of such patrols except for one against Sergeant 
Cascarano's Company F squad. 



knocked out, then moved on. The shell- 
ing forced the 2d Battalion to move its 
command post during the day to an air- 
raid shelter about a hundred yards west 
of the church on the north side of the 
street. The companies initiated a prac- 
tice of bringing as many men as possible 
into the houses during daylight, leaving 
only a skeleton force on the ridge. 

In the western end of Vossenack, 
troops carried on their duties and traffic 
continued to flow in and out of the town. 
Someone coming into Vossenack for only 
a short time, perhaps during one of the 
inevitable lulls in the fire, might not 
have considered the shelling particularly 
effective. But the foot soldiers knew dif- 
ferent. To them in their exposed fox- 
holes, a lull was only a time of appre- 
hensive waiting for the next bursts. The 
cumulative effect was beginning to tell. 12 

The Battle for Kommerscheidt 

At dawn on 4 November, just before 
the Germans counterattacked at Schmidt, 
the officers of Companies A and D, 1 1 2th 
Infantry, took stock of their defensive 
situation in Kommerscheidt and made 
minor adjustments to the positions they 
had moved into the night before. 13 {Map 



X)\ The Americans found themselves 
situated on the lower portion of the 
Kommerscheidt-Schmidt ridge, with 
dense wooded draws on three sides, and 
another wooded draw curving around 
slightly to their front (southeast). Their 
defenses were generally on either flank of 



12 Combat Interv 75 with Kauffman, Johnson, 
Crain, Pruden, Nesbitt, Condon; 2d Info and Hist 
Sv Hist Off, personal observations on arty fire. 

13 No overlays or maps exist showing the Kommer- 
scheidt defenses. Positions and movement as shown 
on jivlap X| are approximate as determined from unit 
journals and combat interviews. 



306 



THREE BATTLES 



the town and south of the houses along 
the town's main east-west street. Lack of 
troops had caused them to forego oc- 
cupying the houses along the southern 
road toward Schmidt. Company C was 
in a reserve position in the edge of the 
woods to the rear, and Company B and 
a platoon of Company D's heavy machine 
guns were still back at Richelskaul. They 
had tank support initially from only one 
tank, that of Lieutenant Fleig, Company 
A, 707th Tank Battalion, but just before 
noon Fleig's tank was joined by those of 
Sergeants Barton and Spooner. The 
battalion command post was in a shallow, 
partially covered dugout in an orchard 
just north of the town, and the aid station 
was in the cellar of a house on the 
northern edge of town. After daylight 
the enemy harassed the Kommerscheidt 
positions with occasional light artillery 
and mortar concentrations, but it was 
from the direction of Schmidt that the 
men could hear the heavier firing. 

By midmorning it was evident that 
something disastrous was happening in 
Schmidt. Small groups of frightened, 
disorganized men began to filter back 
through the Kommerscheidt positions 
with stories that "they're throwing every- 
thing they've got at us." By 1030 the 
scattered groups had reached the pro- 
portions of a demoralized mob, reluctant 
to respond to orders of officers, non- 
commissioned officers, and men of Com- 
panies A and D seeking to augment the 
Kommerscheidt defenses. 

Within the mass of retreating men 
there were frantic efforts to stem the 
withdrawal, and when the enemy did 
not immediately pursue his Schmidt suc- 
cess groups of 3d Battalion troops began 
to reorganize to assist the 1st Battalion. 
Company I, withdrawing through the 



wooded draw southeast of Kommer- 
scheidt, found it had about seventy-two 
men, and, with a few stragglers from 
other companies, stopped in Kommer- 
scheidt and joined the center of the de- 
fense on the south. Approximately 
twenty-six men with Sergeant Ripperdam 
of Company L, augmented by a small 
group of battalion headquarters person- 
nel, went into position on the northwest 
fringe of town, facing slightly south of 
west, on the right flank of the 3d Platoon, 
Company A. The remnants of Company 
K, including the group which had re- 
treated with Lieutenant Tyo, were or- 
ganized into two understrength platoons: 
one, with a strength of about fourteen 
men, dug in to the rear of Kommerscheidt 
(north); the other faced the northeast to 
guard the left flank. The Company D 
commander, Capt. John B. Huyck, made 
contact with Captain Piercey, Company 
M commander, and co-ordinated the fire 
of Company D's weapons with those sur- 
viving from Company M, three 81 -mm. 
mortars without ammunition and three 
heavy machine guns. The latter went 
into position on the southwest edge of 
Kommerscheidt. Despite these efforts at 
stopping the retreat, many men con- 
tinued past Kommerscheidt. Some were 
stopped at the Company C woods-line 
position, but others withdrew all the way 
to Vossenack and Germeter. Rough es- 
timates indicated that only about 200 
men of the 3d Battalion were reorganized 
to join Companies A and D in defending 
Kommerscheidt. 14 

Even as the 3d Battalion was being 
knocked out of Schmidt, the battalion's 



14 Combat Interv 75 with Kudiak, Holden, 
Quinton-Hausman-Lockwood-Kertes-Norton, Peril, 
Piercey, Kelly-Hunter, Ripperdam, Tyo, Dana; 
Combat Interv 76 with Hostrup-Fleig-Payne. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



307 



assistant 5 3, 1st Lt. Leon Simon, was 
making his way forward with a regimental 
order which instructed the 3d Battalion to 
hold temporarily in Schmidt while the 
1 1 0th Infantry continued its attack against 
Raffelsbrand. Lieutenant Simon got no 
farther than Kommerscheidt and there 
was directed by Colonel Flood, the 3d 
Battalion commander, to return and tell 
regiment he absolutely had to have more 
tanks. Despite radio communication with 
Kommerscheidt, the Schmidt action was 
a confused blur at regimental head- 
quarters west of Germeter along the 
Weisser Weh Creek. Before Lieutenant 
Simon returned, the regimental executive 
officer, Lt. Col. Landon J. Lockett, and 
the S-2, Capt. Hunter M. Montgomery, 
accompanied by two photographers and 
a driver, went forward in a jeep in an 
effort to clarify the situation. When 
Simon returned to regiment, there had 
been no word from Colonel Lockett's 
party. Colonel Peterson, the regimental 
commander, told Simon to lead him to 
Kommerscheidt; and shortly after they 
left, the assistant division commander, 
Brig. Gen. George A. Davis, and his aide 
also departed for Kommerscheidt. 15 

Although the enemy did not immedi- 
ately pursue his attack against Kommer- 
scheidt, artillery fire and direct fire from 
tanks in Schmidt harassed attempts at 
reorganization. Then, about 1400, at 
least five enemy tanks, 16 accompanied by 
a small force of infantry, attacked from 
the wooded draw on the southeast. 
There could be no doubt now: Kommer- 
scheidt held next priority on the German 
schedule of counterattacks. 

15 Combat Interv 75 with Dana, Simon; Interv 
with Peterson. 

16 If later claims of enemy tanks destroyed are 
correct, there were probably more than five which 
entered this battle. 



The enemy tanks, Mark IV's and V's, 17 
imitated the tactics they had used so 
effectively earlier in the day in Schmidt, 
standing out of effective bazooka range 
and firing round after round into the 
foxholes and battle-scarred buildings. 
Artillery observers with the defenders 
called for numerous concentrations 
against the attack, but the German tanks 
did not stop. From Schmidt other 
German direct-fire weapons, possibly in- 
cluding tanks, supported the assault. 18 
From 1000 to 1700 the 229th Field Ar- 
tillery Battalion fired at least 462 rounds 
in the vicinity of Kommerscheidt- 
Schmidt, and fires were further aug- 
mented by the 155-mm. guns under corps 
control and the 108th Field Artillery 
Battalion. Capt. W. M. Chmura, a 
liaison officer from the 229th Field Artil- 
lery Battalion, said these supporting fires 
were "terrific." 15 

As the attack hit, Lieutenant Fleig 
(whose tank had been the first to arrive 
in Kommerscheidt) and the two other 

17 Status report on tanks and armored vehicles of 
J /6th Panzer Division, 9 Nov 44, found in file General 
Inspekteur der Panzertruppen, ^ustandsberichte (Inspec- 
torate General of Panzer Troops, Status Reports). 
This is a collection of detailed status and combat 
efficiency reports on the Army panzer divisions for 
November and December 44. Although IPW re- 
ports, found in 28th Division G-2 File, November 
44, and in V Corps G-2 File, November 44, as well 
as almost all combat interviews on the Schmidt 
operation mention "Mark VI" tanks, this source 
reveals that at this period the only combat tanks in 
the 116th Panzer Division were Mark IV's and V's. 
V Corps G-2 files indicate that a few Mark VI tanks 
had been absorbed by the 116th from Panzer Regiment 
GrossdeutsMand ', but most evidence seems to indicate 
that only Mark IV's and V's were employed in this 
operation. 

18 Combat Interv 75 with Ripperdam, Dana, 
Piercey, Kudiak, Tyo; Combat Interv 76 with 
Hostrup-Fleig-Payne. 

19 V Corps Study, Arty Sec. S ee also , 28th Div 
Arty Jnl, 4 Nov 44. See above, [~n. 4| concerning 
Btry C. 



308 



THREE BATTLES 



tankers of Company A, 707th Tank Bat- 
talion, were in a partially defiladed posi- 
tion in a slight draw in the open just 
northwest of Kommerscheidt near the 
western woods line. The tankmen pulled 
their Shermans up on a slight rise and 
fired at the enemy tanks, Fleig claiming 
two of the attackers knocked out and his 
companions a third. Noticing that the 
infantry was retreating from the left flank 
of the town, Fleig moved in that direction 
into a sparse orchard just in time to see 
a Mark V Panther coming into position. 
At a range of 200 to 300 yards, Fleig fired, 
hitting the German tank twice; but he 
was using high explosive ammunition, 
and the Panther's tough hide was not 
damaged. The lieutenant discovered 
then that he had no armor-piercing am- 
munition available, all of it being outside 
in the sponson rack. When the German 
crewmen, evidently frightened by the 
high explosive hits, jumped out of their 
tank, Fleig ceased firing and turned his 
turret to get at his rack and the armor- 
piercing ammunition. The Germans 
seized the opportunity to re-enter their 
tank and open fire, but their first round 
was a miss. Working feverishly, Lieu- 
tenant Fleig and his crew obtained the 
armor-piercing ammunition and returned 
the fire. Their first round cut the barrel 
of the German gun. Three more rounds 
in quick succession tore into the left side 
of the Panther's hull, setting the tank 
afire and killing all its crew. Fleig re- 
turned to the fight on the town's right 
flank.2o 

The surviving enemy tanks continued 
to blast the positions around the town. 
One tank worked its way up a trail on 
the southwest where Sgt. Tony Kudiak, 

20 Combat Interv 76 with Ripple, Hostrup-Fleig- 
Payne. 



a 1st Battalion headquarters man acting 
as a rifleman, and Pvt. Paul Lealsy crept 
out of their holes to meet it with a ba- 
zooka. Spotting the two Americans, the 
German turned his machine guns on 
them, then his hull gun, but both times 
he missed. Kudiak and Lealsy returned 
to get riflemen for protection, and then 
came back. While they were gone, the 
tank approached to within twenty- five 
yards of a stone building in the southern 
edge of town, a second tank pulling 
into position near where the first had 
been initially. Just then a P-47 airplane 
roared down and dropped two bombs. 
The first German tank was so damaged 
by the bombs that it could not move, 
although it still continued to fire. Ser- 
geant Kudiak finished it off with one 
bazooka rocket which entered on one side 
just above the track, setting the tank 
afire. The second German tank backed 
off without firing. 21 

The supporting P-47's were bombing 
and strafing so close to Kommerscheidt 
(the German tank was knocked out virtu- 
ally within the town) that the riflemen 
felt that the pilots did not know American 
troops were there. They welcomed the 
support, but they threw out colored 
identification panels to make sure the 
pilots knew who held the town. The 
P-47's were probably from the 397th 
Squadron, 368th Group, which was over 
the Schmidt area from 1337 to 1500. 
The squadron reported engaging a con- 
centration of more than fifteen vehicles, 
and claimed one armored vehicle de- 
stroyed and two damaged. 

In the midst of the battle, Colonel 
Peterson arrived on foot at the northern 
woods line. He had abandoned his regi- 



21 Combat Interv 75 with Kudiak, Piercey. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



309 



mental command jeep just west of the 
Kail River because of the trail difficulties. 
At the woods line he took charge of about 
thirty stragglers who had been assembled 
there from the 3d Battalion and led them 
into Kommerscheidt. 

With the arrival of air support and the 
continued hammering by artillery, mor- 
tars, small arms, and the three tanks, the 
German assault was stopped about 1600. 
The defenders had sustained numerous 
personnel casualties, but in the process 
they had knocked out at least five Ger- 
man tanks without losing one of their 
own three. Just how big a role a small 
number of tanks might have played had 
they been available for the earlier defense 
of Schmidt was clearly illustrated by the 
temporary success at Kommerscheidt. 22 

General Davis, the assistant division 
commander, who had also come forward 
during the afternoon, conferred in Kom- 
merscheidt with Colonel Peterson and 
the battalion commanders in order to get 
a clearer picture of the situation. He 
then radioed information to division on 
the condition of men and equipment in- 
volved in the fight beyond the Kail. He 
spent the night in a Kommerscheidt cellar 
and returned to the rear the next morn- 
ing. 23 

As night came, the men of Companies 
A and D and the remnants of the 3d 
Battalion worked to consolidate their 
Kommerscheidt positions in the face of 
continued enemy artillery harassment. 
Colonel Peterson, also deciding to spend 
the night in Kommerscheidt, warned 
Lieutenant Fleig not to withdraw his 
tanks for any reason, including servicing. 

22 Combat Interv 75 with Tyo, Peril, Toner; Com- 
bat Interv 76 with Hostrup Fleig- Payne; Interv with 
Peterson; FUSA and IX TAC Sum, 4 Nov 44. 

23 Ltr, Gen Davis to Hist Div, 1 1 Dec 49. 



He feared an enemy counterattack that 
night and was concerned that, if even 
this small tank force were withdrawn, 
the nervous infantry might pull out too. 

About 1 500 that afternoon division had 
ordered the units in Kommerscheidt to 
attack to retake Schmidt, but apparently 
no one on the ground had entertained any 
illusions about immediate compliance. 
The problem then had been to maintain 
the Kommerscheidt position. 24 

The Kali Struggle Continues 

While the infantry and tanks fought 
on in Kommerscheidt, the engineers were 
proceeding with their job on the main 
supply route. Company A, 20th En- 
gineers, continued to work on the switch- 
back curves east of the Kail, and Lieu- 
tenant Huston's platoon from Company 
B, 20th Engineers, struggled with the 
even more difficult west portion of the 
trail. Although explosives had now been 
brought forward for use on the rock out- 
cropping, Huston's men could do no 
blasting for fear of further disabling the 
tanks that were being worked on near by. 25 

Captain Lutz, the Company B com- 
mander, sent a six-man patrol under 
Lieutenant Horn from Vossenack to check 
on a supposition that there was an alter- 
nate route to the Kali farther to the south- 
west. The patrol returned after having 
become involved in a fire fight during 
its reconnaissance. It had killed three 
Germans and captured four prisoners. 
The proposed alternate route, Lieutenant 

24 Combat Interv 76 with Hostrup-Fleig-Payne; 
Combat Interv 75 with 1st and 3d Bn, 112th, per- 
sonnel; V Corps Study, G-3 Sec; 28th Div G-3 File, 
4 Nov 44. 

25 Combat Interv 75 with Lutz, Doherty; Sonne- 
field Statement. Reason for not blowing rock out- 
cropping is given by Lutz. 



310 



THREE BATTLES 



Horn reported, was a swampy firebreak 
blocked by felled trees. Captain Lutz 
then ordered Horn to move with his 
platoon to the assistance of Huston on 
the Kail trail. 26 

Company A's commander, Capt. Henry 
R. Doherty, satisfied with the work done 
by his men on the trail east of the river, 
decided about 1430 to move his company 
back across the Kali and into the woods 
south of Vossenack to bivouac for the 
night. As he started the company back 
and reached the exit of the trail from the 
woods southeast of Vossenack, he met 
General Davis going forward to Kom- 
merscheidt. The general ordered the 
company to take up a specified defensive 
position on either side of the trail and to 
"guard the road near the bridge." Cap- 
tain Doherty reluctantly obeyed the 
order, placing his 3d Platoon under 1st 
Lt. Aurelio Pellino in the woods north 
of the trail near the western edge of the 
woods and the 1st and 2d Platoons gen- 
erally astride the trail where it entered 
the woods. The 3d Platoon was told 
to put a security guard of three men 
under T/4 James A. Krieder beside the 
bridge itself. Except for the location of 
this guard, the positions designated were 
of little value in defending the supply 
route, for a thick expanse of woods sep- 
arated the defenders from the bridge and 
the defense covered only one part of the 
trail, that near the entrance into the 
woods. 27 

By noon on 4 November the tankers 
of Company A, 707th Tank Battalion, 
had accomplished little toward putting 
back into commission their five disabled 
tanks along the Kail trail west of the 
river. The company commander, Cap- 

26 Combat Interv 75 with Lutz, 

27 Combat Interv 75 with Doherty. 



tain Hostrup, found that Sergeant 
Markey's tank, nearest the bridge, could 
not be pulled out, but he discovered a 
complicated switchback trail running to 
the left that would p ermit passage around 



it 



{See Map 24.) 



Sergeant Yarman's 
tank, lead vehicle of the 2d Platoon, was 
at the sharp road bend where the rock 
outcropping hindered passage and had 
a thrown track which the tankers con- 
sidered could be replaced. Approxi- 
mately 150 yards behind was Sergeant 
Allen's tank with both tracks thrown. 
Captain Hostrup felt that maintenance 
personnel would be necessary to put 
Sergeant Allen's tank into operation, 
although with the aid of Lieutenant 
Huston's engineer platoon the right bank 
of the trail beside it could be dug away 
sufficiently to allow other traffic to pass. 
The other two tanks were those aban- 
doned by Lieutenant Fleig and Lieu- 
tenant Clarke (Sergeant Zaroslinski's 
tank) near the entrance to the woods, 
but other tanks had successfully ma- 
neuvered past them. 

After several hours of trying, the tank- 
ers finally managed to replace the track 
on Sergeant Yarman's tank. Yarman 
pulled ahead about ten feet and the tank 
again threw the track, this time damaging 
the left idler wheel. Again the track 
was replaced, again Yarman drove a 
short distance ahead, and again the track 
jumped off. By this time it was almost 
1600 and men from the Kommerscheidt 
action were pouring back along the trail, 
bringing with them tales of the fierce 
pounding to which they had been sub- 
jected. Radioing Colonel Ripple, his 
battalion commander, Captain Hostrup 
insisted that, if more tanks were to get 
through to Kommerscheidt, more en- 
gineers were needed. Colonel Ripple 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



311 



radioed back just at dark (about 1730) 
that more engineers were forthcoming 
and that maintenance crews for the tanks 
were on the way. 

The Company A, 707th, maintenance 
officer, 1st Lt. Stanley Lisy, his crew, and 
the battalion maintenance officer, Capt. 
George A. Harris, reached the disabled 
tanks about 1900. Starting to work im- 
mediately on Sergeant Yarman's tank 
near the rock outcropping, Lieutenant 
Lisy's crew had the troublesome track on 
again by 2200. The tank moved twenty- 
five yards farther and off came the track. 
Diagnosing now that the difficulty lay in 
the damaged idler wheel, the men secured 
a good idler wheel from Lieutenant 
Fleig's abandoned tank at the head of 
the trail and went to work to install it on 
Sergeant Yarman's tank. 28 

Soon after dark a tank supply group 
of five weasels with quarter-ton trailers 
loaded with rations, tank ammunition, 
and .30-caliber ammunition for the in- 
fantry had started for Kommerscheidt 
from Germeter. Learning in Vossenack 
that difficulties still existed on the main 
supply route across the Kali, its officers, 
Capt. William H. Pynchon, S-4, 707th 
Tank Battalion, and 1st Lt. Howard S. 
Rogers, Reconnaissance Platoon leader, 
Headquarters Company, 707th, directed 
resupply of the tanks of Company C, 
707th, in Vossenack and went on ahead 
by jeep to reconnoiter the Kali trail. 
They returned later for the supply train, 
and the jeep and five weasels with trailers 
reached the woods entrance of the trail 
shortly after midnight. A guide carrying 
a white handkerchief went on foot in 
front of each vehicle. At a point where 
the trail slanted perceptibly toward the 



Combat Interv 75 with Hostrup-Fleig-Payne. 



left and was jagged with sharp rock pro- 
jections, the lead weasel threw a track. 
It took about fifteen minutes to replace 
the track before the column could con- 
tinue. 

Enemy artillery fire constantly har- 
assed the trail area, but the supply 
column reached Sergeant Yarman's tank 
without casualties about 0100. Intensi- 
fying its efforts to install the new idler 
wheel on the tank, the maintenance crew 
completed the job at approximately 0200. 
As the tank started forward, success at 
last within the grasp of the exasperated 
crewmen, it moved only about ten yards 
before the left shoulder of the trail gave 
way, and once more off came the track. 
There was scarcely any alternative except 
to comply with a message that had been 
brought Captain Hostrup, the tank com- 
pany commander, by Captain Pynchon: 
"Holiday 6 [General Cota, division com- 
mander] wants to give you all the time 
possible to retrieve your vehicles, BUT 
that main supply route must be open by 
daybreak. If necessary, you will roll your 
immobilized tanks down the slope and 
into the draw." 29 

Captain Hostrup ordered Sergeant 
Allen, whose tank was 150 yards up the 
hill, to fasten the tow cable of his tank to 
a tree and pull himself as far off the road 
as possible. (Jeeps and weasels could 
pass Sergeant Allen's tank while larger 
vehicles could not.) Sergeant Yarman's 
tank at the rock outcropping was also 
pulled off to the left with tow cables 
fastened on trees, although digging on the 
right bank was still necessary to provide 
sufficient space for passage. At Lieu- 
tenant Fleig's and Sergeant Zaroslinski's 
abandoned tanks near the beginning of 

29 Combat Interv 76 with Ripple, Hostrup-Fleig- 
Payne, Pynchon, and Rogers. 



312 



THREE BATTLES 



the difficult section of the trail, it had al- 
ready been determined that tanks could 
pass, and at Sergeant Markey's tank 
nearer the bottom of the draw, the com- 
plicated switchback to the left would pro- 
vide passage without necessitating re- 
moval of his tank. 

Captain Pynchon's men assisted in the 
digging at Sergeant Yarman's tank near 
the rock outcropping, but not until about 
0300 was passage assured. The men of 
the supply train were getting worried, for 
they hoped to complete their mission to 
Kommerscheidt and return before day- 
light provided the enemy visibility on the 
open slope southeast of Vossenack. The 
moon was up by the time they moved out 
again, and visibility in the wooded river 
draw had improved. 

As they reached Sergeant Markey's 
tank at the switchback, first glance 
showed that the heavily laden quarter- 
ton trailers would have to be manhandled 
around' abrupt bends in the trail, and 
even then the weasels would have to do a 
good deal of slow backing and turning in 
order to manage the tortuous route. 
{Map 25) Bisecting the trail above and 
below Sergeant Markey's tank were two 
branches of a road fork formed, some 
seventy yards to the north, by the north- 
south river road and a road leading to the 
Mestrenger Muehle. To pass Sergeant 
Markey's tank, each weasel had to be de- 
tached from its trailer, then backed up 
the river road to the north because the 
short turn at the intersection of the Kail 
trail and the river road was too abrupt 
for a forward turn. At the sharp junc- 
tion seventy yards to the north the wea- 
sel's trailers were reattached after having 
been pulled by hand over the slippery, 
rock-studded trail; and the weasels and 
trailers then continued to the south along 



the Mestrenger Muehle trail and back 
onto the main trail. The movement was 
slow, tedious, and exasperating. 

Beyond the Kali the supply train en- 
countered two more switchbacks which 
necessitated 180-degree turns, and the 
laborious task of manhandling the heavy 
trailers had to be repeated. Despite 
these difficulties, the supply group reached 



Kommerscheidt about 0430. It was just 
beginning to get light when the weasels 
returned to their supply assembly point 
back at Germeter. 30 

The Engineers 

Earlier in the evening, before Captain" 
Pynchon's supply train had gone for- 

30 Combat Interv 76 with Pynchon, Hostrup-Fleig- 
Payne. 




MAP 25 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



313 



ward, the 3d Platoon, Company B, 20th 
Engineers, under 2d Lt. Reynold A. 
Ossola, was sent to assist Lieutenant 
Huston's and Lieutenant Horn's engineer 
platoons on the difficult western section 
of the Kali trail. With the 3d Platoon 
went a second air compressor, 300 pounds 
of TNT, and a second bulldozer. After 
the tanks were partially removed from 
the trail and Captain Pynchon's supply 
column had passed, the engineers blasted 
the rock outcropping. By 0400 the trail 
was completely open. Ossola's platoon 
remained for maintenance work on the 
trail, and Huston's and Horn's platoons 
returned before dawn for rest in Vosse- 
nack. 31 

Company C, 20th Engineers, origi- 
nally in battalion reserve, had moved 
during midmorning of 4 November to a 
forward bivouac area near Germeter, 
and the company's 2d Platoon had gone 
out about 1330 on a mine-clearing mis- 
sion for the 109th Infantry. The head- 
quarters group and 1st Platoon, under 
the company commander, Capt. Walter 
C. Mahaley, were ordered to move be- 
yond the Kail to a defensive bivouac 
preparatory to assisting Company A, 
20th Engineers, on supply route main- 
tenance the next day. They left Ger- 
meter about 2330 on foot and by 0300 
(5 November) were in bivouac near 
Company C, 112th Infantry, where the 
main supply route formed a large wooded 
loop on the hill above the east-bank 
switchbacks. One squad of the 3d Pla- 
toon had been ordered to remain at Ger- 
meter to guard a rear explosives dump. 
The other two squads were to move by 
truck with 5,000 pounds of explosives to 



'l Combat Interv 75 with Lutz; 112th Inf S-3 
Jnl, 4 Nov 44. 



the vicinity of the Kali bridge. There 
they were to be prepared to blow pill- 
boxes in the Kommerscheidt-Schmidt 
area. Under the platoon leader, 2d Lt. 
Benjamin Johns, these two squads, the 
1st and 3d, arrived in Vossenack after 
midnight, learned that the Kail trail was 
still clogged with tanks, and returned 
to the forward bivouac area near Ger- 
meter. 32 

Command and the Kail Trail 

Misinformation throughout the day of 
4 November had kept division headquar- 
ters ill-informed about the condition of 
the vital main supply route across the 
Kali gorge. Most reports repeatedly as- 
serted that the supply route was open, 
thus contributing to failure of command- 
ers to realize the seriousness of the situa- 
tion. Neither regiment nor division had 
liaison officers on the spot. Not until 
approximately 1500 had General Cota 
intervened personally by ordering the 
1171st Engineer Group commander, Col. 
Edmund K. Daley, to send a "competent 
officer" to supervise work on the trail. 
Colonel Daley not only visited the area 
himself but ordered the commander of 
the 20th Engineer Combat Battalion, Lt. 
Col. J. E. Sonnefield, to take personal 
charge. Although the 28th Division 
chief of staff ordered the division engi- 
neer at 1730 to take charge of the 
engineer operations in the Kail gorge, 
the real supervision apparently came 
from Colonel Sonnefield. 33 



32 Combat Interv 75 with White and Sgt William 
O'Neal, 3d Plat, Co C, 20th Engrs; Sonnefield 
Statement. 

33 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 4 Nov 44; 1 12th Inf S-3 Jnl, 
4 Nov 44; Combat Interv 75 with Daley; Sonnefield 
Statement. 



314 



THREE BATTLES 



893d Tank Destroyer Battalion 
Joins the Action 

The 893d Tank Destroyer Battalion, 
attached initially to the 28th Division as 
indirect artillery support but prepared 
to move forward to repel enemy tank 
attack, had only two gun companies 
available for commitment — -Companies 
B and C. Throughout the action Com- 
pany A was attached to the 102d Cavalry 
Group to the north. One Company C 
gun had developed a leaking recoil mech- 
anism while firing the initial jump-off 
concentrations on 2 November and was 
evacuated. A total of twenty-three de- 
stroyers remained for commitment. 

Until 4 November the tank destroyers 
were in indirect firing positions just south 
of Zweifall and north of Roetgen and 
were co-ordinated with the 28th Division 
artillery. By noon on that date the Com- 
pany C destroyers had moved to new in- 
direct firing positions 2,500 yards west 
of Richelskaul from which a reported 
German tank repair and maintenance 
shop in Nideggen would be within range. 
A Reconnaissance Company platoon 
leader attached to Company C, 1st Lt. 
Jack W. Fuller, went ahead to recon- 
noiter the Kali trail in the event the de- 
stroyers were later ordered to Kommer- 
scheidt. 

At approximately 1530 the 28th Divi- 
sion antitank officer, Maj. William W. 
Bodine, Jr., ordered Capt. Marion C. 
Pugh's Company C to send two platoons 
into Vossenack as antitank protection. 
After a preliminary reconnaissance, 1st 
Lt. Goodwin W. McElroy's 3d Platoon 
moved into Vossenack about 1700, going 
into positions on the south of town near 
the church. The 1st Platoon under 1st 
Lt. Turney W. Leonard took up a posi- 



tion of readiness near Germeter, and the 
2d Platoon remained in the indirect fire 
positions west of Richelskaul. 

Company B, 893d, started forward just 
before dark from the indirect fire posi- 
tions south of Zweifall to move to the 
Germeter vicinity as further antitank pro- 
tection. Several of the company's de- 
stroyers bogged down on the narrow, 
muddy forest road. When the remaining 
vehicles reached a point about a thousand 
yards southwest of Germeter, they met the 
battalion commander, Lt. Col. Samuel 
E. Mays, who ordered them off the road 
into indirect fire positions. The area far- 
ther forward, Colonel Mays told them, 
was already too cluttered with personnel 
and equipment. Moving his guns into 
position, the Company B commander, 
Capt. John B. Cook, made arrangements 
for a T-2 retriever to recover the destroy- 
ers that had bogged down, and all the 
company's guns were returned during 
the night. Two towed guns of Company 

B, 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion, were 
set up during the night near the Vosse- 
nack church and six towed guns were put 
into position along the Richelskaul- 
Ger meter road. 

About 2315 Captain Pugh, Company 

C, 893d, was ordered to prepare his com- 
pany for movement to Kommerscheidt. 
Company B, 893d, would take over the 
antitank support of Vossenack. Lieu- 
tenant Fuller and Capt. Sidney C. Cole, 
commander of the Reconnaissance Com- 
pany, 893d, made another reconnaissance 
of the Kail trail and returned about 0200 
with news that the route was still clogged 
with disabled tanks but would probably 
be open by daylight. Company C's 1st 
and 3d Platoons went into an assembly 
area near the entrance of the Kali trail 
into the wooded valley, ready to move to 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



315 



Kommerscheidt upon the opening of the 
trail. The 2d Platoon under 1st Lt. Cur- 
tis M. Edmund started moving to the 
western edge of Vossenack about 0530 in 
order to be ready to follow the other pla- 
toons across the Kail River. En route 
one of Lieutenant Edmund's destroyers 
struck a mine near Richelskaul and had 
to be abandoned. The platoon, now 
with only two guns left, did not arrive 
in Vossenack until 0730. 

Company B, 893d, designated to re- 
place Company C in Vossenack, moved 
up about 0430, picking up guides from 
the rifle companies of the 2d Battalion, 
112th Infantry, which its platoons were 
to support. The 2d Platoon went into 
position just north of the houses across 
the street from the Vossenack church. 
The 3d deployed north of the road and 
west of the 2d. The 1st Platoon, under 
1st Lt. Howard C. Davis, moved toward 
the northeast of Vossenack. Its infantry 
guide stood in the turret of Davis' de- 
stroyer. As the platoon moved, heavy 
enemy artillery fire fell in the area. One 
shell exploded against the counterbal- 
ance of Davis' vehicle and blew away 
half the infantry guide's head. 34 

Air Support 

Weather was again the controlling 
factor on 4 November in air support of 
the Schmidt operation. The first air 
attack of the day hit Schmidt at 1235 
after the 3d Battalion, 112th Infantry, 
had been driven out. Schmidt and its 
environs, including Harscheidt, were 



34 Tank destroyer story is from the following: Com- 
bat Interv 76 with Fuller, Cole, Pugh, Davis, Sgt 
Hammet E. Murphy, and S Sgt William B. Gardner. 
All from Co B, 893d. See also V Corps Study, TD 
Sec; 1 12th Inf S-3 Jni, 4 Nov 44. 



bombed and strafed by two other squad- 
rons during the day, and air claimed 
one armored vehicle destroyed and two 
tanks damaged. Two other squadrons 
were to fly missions against Schmidt; 
one had to cancel its mission because 
of weather and the other squadron was 
vectored to different targets. The latter 
squadron eventually had to jettison its 
bombs when the weather closed in. A 
mission against Nideggen claimed one 
motor vehicle and four armored vehicles 
destroyed. In the difficult weather, 
these might have been termed satisfac- 
tory results; but the large-scale interven- 
tion of enemy armor was proof enough 
that air support was not accomplishing 
the vital mission of isolating the Schmidt 
battlefield. 35 

109th and 110th Infantry Summaries 

Early on 4 November the Germans 
launched what some men called a coun- 
terattack, but it was probably an at- 
tempt at infiltration against the 1st Bat- 
talion, 109th Infantry, in the woods 
southwest of Huertgen. | {Map 26)] The 
Germans were beaten off but not before 
they had infiltrated the battalion's rear 
and surrounded the battalion observation 
post, capturing or killing about fifteen 
men, including most of the battalion staff 
and the artillery liaison party. Two 
companies of the 2d Battalion later at- 
tacked almost due east in another attempt 
to take the remaining part of the original 
regimental objective east of the Huert- 
gen-Germeter road. They were stopped 
by mines and small arms fire along the 
road. A special task force from the 109th 
Antitank Company, the 630th Tank 

« 1'1'SA and IX TAC Sum, 4 Nov 44; V Corps 
Study, G-3 Air Sec; Combat Interv 74 with Howison. 



317 



OF GERMAN RESERVES 

4 November 1944 

^^■^ Axis of German counterattack 
^-i^^^^ German positions, evening 4 Nov 

Positions of 28 'th Division as of dawn 4 Nov 
Units of German 275th Division are net shown 




Destroyer Battalion, and the 103d Engi- 
neers failed in an effort to capture a Ger- 
man road block to the regiment's left at 
a junction of two roads in the draw of the 
Weisser Weh Creek. 36 

In the woods to the south the 11 0th 
Infantry held with two battalions and 
attacked with the other (the 1st) from 
Vossenack south to Simonskall in an 
effort to turn the stiff opposition at Raf- 
felsbrand by threatening the enemy rear. 
The attack was launched before dawn 
and before the 112th Infantry was hit so 
disastrously at Schmidt. The battalion 
took Simonskall by 0900 against negli- 
gible resistance. About noon one com- 
pany was committed to clean out the 
east-west portion of the Richelskaul- 
Simonskall road, and the 2d and 3d Bat- 
talions sent out patrols supported by 
artillery fire. These units found the 
enemy still facing them in force and show- 
ing no inclination to withdraw despite 
the 1st Battalion's movement toward his 
rear. Although the 1st Battalion's new 
position sealed off one end of the north- 
south river road, there was nothing to 
indicate that the move had been designed 
to protect the Kali gorge from the south. 
That it served to prevent enemy move- 
ment along this road from the south is 
apparent, but the enemy still had access 
to the Kail trail area from the south 
through hundreds of yards of unprotected 
woods. 37 

The Enemy Situation 

With the execution of two early morn- 
ing counterattacks against the 28th Divi- 

36 Combat Intcrv 77 with 109th personnel; 109th 
Inf S-3 Jnl, 4 Nov 44; 109th Inf AAR, Nov 44; 28th 
Div G-3 Jnl, 4 Nov 44. 

37 Combat Intcrv 77 with 110th personnel; 110th 
Inf S-3 Jnl, 4 Nov 44; 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 4 Nov 44. 



318 



THREE BATTLES 



sion's penetrations, German reserves had 
made their first prominent entry into the 
Schmidt action. At dawn German troops 
attempted to infiltrate the 109th Infan- 
try's salient north of Germeter but were 
repulsed. But also at dawn the 1055th 
Regiment (89th Division), assisted by an 
armored group of the 16th Panzer Regi- 
ment (116th Panzer Division), launched its 
counterattack against the Americans in 
Schmidt. 38 The 1st and 3d Battalions, 
1055th Regiment, supported by tanks and 
assault guns, attacked from Harscheidt 
against Company L, 112th Infantry, and 
the 2d Platoon, Company I. According 
to American accounts, this attack spilled 
over to the Hasenfeld road against ele- 
ments of Company L and Company K. 
The 2d Battalion, 1055th Regiment, which 
had not completed its move from the 
southwest when the Americans took 
Schmidt, attacked from the west against 
elements of Company K and the 3d Pla- 
toon, Company I. The first German 
troops actually to re-enter Schmidt were 
one platoon and a communications sec- 
tion, plus tanks and assault gun support, 
of the 3d Battalion, 1055th Regiment. The 
1055th Regiment, still assisted by armored 
elements of the 16th Panzer Regiment, con- 
tinued its attack that afternoon against 
Kommerscheidt. A battalion of the 
347th Infantry Division, adjoining the 89th 
Division to the south, had been moved 
into a defensive position astride the 
Hasenfeld-Schmidt road, but there is no 
indication that this battalion participated 
in the attacks. 

3S 89th Division Order of the Day states that the 2d 
Battalion, 60th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, participated 
in this attack, but the only 28th Division prisoner 
identification of this unit on 4 November was on the 
109th Infantry front north of Germeter. 28th Div 
G-2 File, 4-5 Nov 44. See also V Corps G-2 File, 
and MS § A -905 ( Waldenburg). 



The afternoon assault against Kom- 
merscheidt penetrated only the southern 
edges of the village, which the Americans 
had not occupied. Meanwhile, news had 
been received that Simonskall had fallen, 
and the German command ordered com- 
mitment of another unit, the 1056th Regi- 
ment (89th Division), although there is no 
indication that this unit actually entered 
the action until the next day. 39 The 
availability of this regiment was a result 
of the continuing arrival of units of the 
272d Volks Grenadier Division to relieve the 
89th Division. At some time during the 
day the 156th Panzer Grenadier Regiment 
(third regiment of the 116th Panzer Divi- 
sion) moved into the woods north of 
Vossenack and thus faced the 2d Bat- 
talion, 112th Infantry. 

Also on 4 November, Army Group B 
and Seventh Army sent several artillery, 
assault gun, antitank, and mortar bat- 
talions into the sector, and LXXIV Corps 
committed the artillery and antitank 
guns of those of its divisions not affected 
by the 28th Division's attack (possibly 
the 347th Infantry Division, the 272d Volks 
Grenadier Division, and the 12th Volks 
Grenadier Division). These were in addi- 
tion to the organic artillery and antitank 
weapons of the three committed German 
divisions, the 116th Panzer, the 89th, and 
the 275th, plus the assault guns of the 116th 
Panzer Division. These additions in sup- 
porting troops probably accounted for 
the marked increase in German artillery 
fire noted on this date. 



39 At this time the 89th Division had only two in- 
fantry regiments, the 1055th and 1056th, both badly 
mauled in the battles in France and reconstituted 
from conglomerate units, plus assorted engineer, 
antitank, reconnaissance, artillery, signal, antiair- 
craft, and Landesschuetzen (local security) units. See 
MS # P-032a by Generalmajor Walter Bruns, for- 
merly CG of 89th Infantry Division. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



319 



The over-all German plan, designed 
to restore the status quo which had existed 
on the opening day of the American of- 
fensive, had now begun to take shape. 
Initially that plan had directed only a 
counterattack from the Huertgen area to 
cut off the American penetration in Voss- 
enack, but when the move to Schmidt 
had revealed the strategic aim of the 
offensive the plan had been broadened. 
Seventh Army had ordered that the wings 
of the salient be held firmly against fur- 
ther widening, that the 89th Division 
(assisted by the 16th Panzer Regiment) re- 
take Schmidt and Kommerscheidt, 40 and 
that the 116th Panzer Division launch a 
concentric attack to retake Vossenack. 
With Schmidt recaptured, the Germans 
planned the next day (5 November) to 
renew the attack against Kommerscheidt, 
to continue the build-up of the 156th 
Panzer Grenadier Regiment against Vosse- 
nack on the north, and to send the Recon- 
naissance Battalion of the 116th Panzer 
Division down the Kali gorge from the 
northeast. The latter move was designed 
to accomplish two things: to put troops 
into position to assist a later attack against 
Vossenack and to cut off the Americans 
in Kommerscheidt by linking up in the 
Kali gorge with elements of the 1056th 
Regiment (89th Division), which had been 
ordered to close a gap in German lines 
created by the capture of Simonskall. 
The Germans did not realize that their 
attempt at a link-up in the Kail gorge 

40 MS § A -905 (Waldenburg) shows only an 
"armored group" comprising twenty to thirty tanks 
of the 16th Pander Regiment at Schmidt and Kommer- 
scheidt, but this "group" was commanded by the 
regimental commander and was a sizable part of the 
regiment. While other elements of this regiment 
apparently operated north of the American penetra- 
tion, reference to the armored group at Kommer- 
scheidt is hereafter made as 16th Panzer Regiment. See 
also MS # A-891 (Gersdorff). 



would meet little resistance — the 28th 
Division had taken virtually no defensive 
measures against the obvious possibility 
of such a maneuver. 41 

Summary for 4 November and Night of 
4-5 November 

This day of 4 November had been 
established as a dark moment in the 28th 
Division's battle for Schmidt, at least in 
the sector of the main effort being made 
by the 112th Infantry. One planned 
phase of the operation, isolation of the 
battlefield by air support, could already 
be considered — no matter how explain- 
able by implausibility of the original mis- 
sion or by weather difficulties — a distinct 
failure. Still, all was far from lost, and 
though the man in the foxhole in Vosse- 
nack or Kommerscheidt or working the 
difficult supply route might wonder if 
success were possible, preparations were 
being made to retake the territory lost 
during the day. 

The enemy had dealt the 3d Battalion, 
112th Infantry, a swift counterblow in 
Schmidt that morning; still, Companies 
A and D and three tanks and the rem- 
nants of the 3d Battalion had managed 
to hold in Kommerscheidt, although the 
picture had looked dark when the Ger- 
mans struck there about 1400. But the 
Germans had reeled back from Kommer- 
scheidt, having lost at least five tanks and 
an unestimated number of men. 

Still virtually intact was Company C, 
112th Infantry, in the edge of the woods 
north of Kommerscheidt, and supporting 

41 MSS # A-891 and A-892 (Gersdorff); MS 
# A-905 (Waldenburg); MS # C-016 (Straube); 
ETHINT 56 (Gersdorff and Waldenburg); Sit Rpts, 
2-4 Nov 44, found in OB WEST KTB Anlagen 
1- 10. XI. 44.; 28th Div G-2 Jnl and File, Nov 44; 
89th Division Order of the Day; MS # P-032a (Bruns). 



320 



THREE BATTLES 



it was the 1st Platoon, Company C, 20th 
Engineers, farther down the trail toward 
the river. But neither unit was in a posi- 
tion to defend the vital Kail bridge, and 
Company A, 20th Engineers, ostensibly 
given such a mission, was in a defense in 
the edge of the woods southeast of Vosse- 
nack with only a four-man security guard 
actually in a position to cover the bridge. 

The Kail trail was now presumed to be 
passable again after another day and 
night of work, and one five-weasel supply 
train from the 707th Tank Battalion had 
passed and returned. Poised to move 
across the river along this route were the 
remainder of Company A, 707th Tank 
Battalion (only five tanks, plus the three 
already in Kommerscheidt), and Com- 
pany C, 893d Tank Destroyer Battalion, 
with ten M-10 tank destroyers. 

Although persistent enemy shelling had 
demoralized the defenders of Vossenack, 
the 2d Battalion, 112th Infantry, was still 
in position there. Assisting it were a 
platoon of tanks from Company C, 707th 
Tank Battalion (the other tanks of Com- 
pany C had moved to ready positions 
near Germeter), and Company B, 893d 
Tank Destroyer Battalion, with twelve 
newly arrived tank destroyers. Com- 
pany B, 112th Infantry, except for the 
losses in its initial attack on 2 November 
was still intact in its Richelskaul defense 
to the rear. 

Medical evacuation from Kommer- 
scheidt and Vossenack was evidently pro- 
ceeding successfully, although with diffi- 
culty from the hazards of the Kail trail 
and shelling along the Vossenack ridge. 



Communication by telephone 42 had been 
consistently poor because of heavy enemy 
shelling, but radios were generally giving 
satisfactory service, although the engi- 
neers in the Kail gorge had found recep- 
tion poor in the low areas. Nevertheless, 
all requests for artillery fire were appar- 
ently getting through. Weather was 
still hampering all operations, particu- 
larly air support, and, if it had not al- 
ready been deduced that air could not 
isolate the battlefield, continued enemy 
commitments would certainly prove it. 

The 109th Infantry had met with little 
success in completing its mission in the 
woods to the north but had held against 
another determined German counter- 
attack. To the south the 110th Infantry 
had met its first success in this battle 
with the capture of Simonskall, but the 
attack had used the division's only in- 
fantry reserve. 

Artillery of the 229th Field Artillery 
Battalion in direct support of the 112th 
Infantry fired missions throughout the 
night against possible enemy assembly 
areas in the Kommerscheidt- Schmidt 
area. The commanders hoped to dis- 
courage expected continuation of enemy 
countermeasures against Kommerscheidt. 

42 On 3 November the 3d Battalion, 1 12th Infan- 
try, had laid telephone wire by hand as it advanced 
to Schmidt, and the 1st Battalion, 1 12th, laid wire to 
Kommerscheidt. On 4 November both circuits ap- 
parently broke down, and despite efforts to replace 
them enemy shelling and patrol action kept the wire 
out for the rest of the operation. Circuits between 
Germeter and Vossenack were repaired at least 
twenty times, but there were still long periods with 
no telephone communication to Vossenack. See V 
Corps Study, Com Sec. 



CHAPTER IV 



More Action at Kommerscheidt 

(5 November) 



The men of the 1st and 3d Battalions, 
112th Infantry, remained in position in 
their Kommerscheidt defens es in early 



morning of 5 November. (See Map X.) 
They strove to get a few fitful moments 
of sleep despite the intense cold which 
came just before dawn. Many had no 
overcoats or blankets to keep them warm 
and tried to dig their foxholes deeper to 
ward off the icy temperatures. Just at 
dawn the enemy's artillery and mortars 
suddenly roared again into intensity, and 
the disheartened infantrymen dreaded 
what they believed would follow. Their 
positions were at best hastily organized 
with a haphazard intermingling of com- 
panies and platoons, and they had only 
three tanks in support. A previous esti- 
mate that there were 200 men of the 3d 
Battalion in position was scaled down to 
100. In addition, there were combat-de- 
pleted Company A and the surviving 
heavy weapons of Company D. Com- 
pany C was in reserve along the woods 
line to the north but in position to contrib- 
ute little by direct fire toward repelling an 
attack against Kommerscheidt itself, and 
Company B and one heavy machine gun 
platoon were still back at Richelskaul. 

It was just after dawn when the enemy 
fire lifted, and through the early morning 
mist observers could see at least five Ger- 
man tanks emerge from their Schmidt 
hide-out and head toward Kommer- 



scheidt, firing as they moved. A small 
force of enemy infantry came out of the 
wooded draw to the southeast and 
launched an attack against Company A's 
left flank positions. The 1st Platoon and 
its heavy weapons support engaged the 
infantry with small arms, machine gun, 
and mortar fire; and supporting artillery 
of the 229th Field Artillery Battalion fired 
several heavy concentrations. The Ger- 
man infantry attack was stopped, but the 
tanks on the south continued on. 

Lieutenant Fleig and his three tanks 
from Company A, 707th Tank Battalion, 
were in the shallow open draw on the north- 
west flank of Kommerscheidt. While the 
German tanks were still at long range, the 
three American tanks moved to the crest 
of the little rise south of the draw and 
fired, scoring seven hits on one German 
Mark V and immobilizing it. The re- 
maining enemy tanks continued to fire 
but did not press the assault. Supporting 
American artillery continued to fire con- 
centrations on enemy tanks and troops 
in Schmidt. At the cost of a number of 
casualties, among them both the com- 
pany commander, Captain Rokey, and 
the executive officer of Company I, Kom- 
merscheidt had held again. 1 

1 Combat Interv 75 with Toner, Holden, Kelly- 
Hunter, Piercey, Quinton-Hausman-Lockwood- 
Kertes-Norton; Combat Interv 76 with Hostrup- 
Fleig-Payne; 1 12th Inf S-3 Jnl, 5 Nov 44; 28th Div 
G-3 Jnl, 5 Nov 44; 28th Div Arty Jnl, 5 Nov 44. 




TANK DESTROYERS M-10 of 893d Tank Destroyer Battalion, moving up over a 
narrow, muddy forest road west of Germeter. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



323 



Tank Destroyers Try for Kommerscheidt 

The preceding night the tank destroy- 
ers of two platoons of Company C, 893d 
Tank Destroyer Battalion, had moved to 
ready positions southeast of Vossenack 
to await word that the main supply route 
through the Kali defile was clear of dis- 
abled tanks. That word came after the 
engineers had blasted at approximately 
0400, and Lieutenant Leonard, accom- 
panied by Lieutenant Fuller, reconnais- 
sance platoon leader, led out before dawn 
with his 1st Platoon. As Lieutenant 
McElroy's 3d Platoon followed, one of his 
destroyers threw a track in moving out of 
the muddy assembly area, but the others 
continued, finding that the supply route 
had indeed been cleared but that to 
traverse it still took time-consuming cau- 
tion. Leonard's platoon reached Kom- 
merscheidt about 0930. By the time 
McElroy reached the woods line over- 
looking the town from the north, his de- 
stroyer had developed an oil leak and 
was overheating. He halted to work on 
his destroyer, holding up the vehicles of 
his platoon behind him; but eventually 
he pulled his gun off the trail and joined 
another crew as the column continued 
into town. The 3d Platoon, 893d, joined 
the 1st in Kommerscheidt about 1000, 
making available a total of seven de- 
stroyers. 2 

Another Enemy Attack 

About 0920 a message from Gen- 
eral Cota, the division commander, 
had reached Kommerscheidt, ordering 
Colonel Peterson to renew the attack to 
recapture Schmidt without delay. That 
was as far as the order got. As the mes- 

2 Combat Interv 7ti with Pugh, Fuller, and Lt Col 
Samuel E. Mays, CO, 893d TD Bn. 



sage arrived the men in Kommerscheidt 
were being subjected to another German 
attack. Whether it was a new attack or 
a continuation of the stalled dawn at- 
tack, the infantrymen could not tell in 
the confusion. They did know that 
enemy infantry again assaulted the left- 
flank positions, coming in from the 
wooded draw to the southeast. The 
enemy tanks joined this attack only with 
supporting fire from Schmidt, although 
several tanks moved about out of sight 
on a road in the woods to the east, their 
engines racing and sirens blasting, appar- 
ently trying to unnerve the Americans. 

This second German assault of the 
day was in full progress when the self- 
propelled guns of Company C, 893d 
Tank Destroyer Battalion, arrived in 
the town. Lieutenant Leonard and 
Lieutenant McElroy co-ordinated im- 
mediately with Lieutenant Fleig, the 
tank officer, placing Leonard's 1st Tank 
Destroyer Platoon near the three tanks 
on the right (west) flank of town and the 
other platoon, the 3d, on the left (east) 
of town. The destroyers joined with the 
three tanks in firing back at the support- 
ing enemy tanks in Schmidt, but with- 
out reported success. 

On the left flank, where the German 
infantry had again assaulted, 2d Lt. Ray 
M. Borders, Company M, seized an 
abandoned automatic rifle and sprayed 
the infantry attackers, knocking out al- 
most two full squads of German machine 
gunners. Small arms, machine gun, mor- 
tar, and supporting artillery fire, plus the 
timely arrival of the tank destroyers, 
halted the half-hearted German effort. 
Once again Kommerscheidt had held. 3 

3 Combat Interv 75 with Piercey, Quinton-Haus- 
man-Lockwood-Kertes-Norton, Ripperdam, and 
Kelly-Hunter; Combat Interv 76 with Hostrup- 
Fleig-Payne, Pugh, Mays. 



324 



THREE BATTLES 



Events Along the Kail Trail 

Except for some .30-caliber ammuni- 
tion brought up by Captain Pynchon, 
707th Tank Battalion, the first infantry 
supplies to reach Kommerscheidt after 
the Schmidt withdrawal arrived just 
before dawn on 5 November before the 
Germans had launched their first attack 
of the day. The load included enough 
emergency rations for all the infantry 
in the town and much-needed small arms 
ammunition. In charge of the supply 
convoy was Lieutenant George, motor 
officer of the 3d Battalion, 112th Infan- 
try, who had earlier led the three-weasel 
supply train to Schmidt. He had moved 
through the main supply route without 
undue difficulty after the tanks had been 
pulled off the trail. 

George and his supply party started 
back shortly after dawn. At an ammu- 
nition supply point established by the 
lieutenant at the exit of the Kali trail 
onto the open Vossenack ridge, the group 
met a force of tank destroyers on its way 
to Kommerscheidt. George secured the 
assistance of the destroyers in transport- 
ing additional mortar shells and miscel- 
laneous ammunition which had been re- 
quested and then returned to the regi- 
mental motor pool west of Germeter. 
There the regimental S— 4 put him in 
charge of getting all supplies to Kom- 
merscheidt. 

Intending to lead another supply train 
forward after dark that night, Lieutenant 
George first planned a reconnaissance of 
the trail in the hope of taking two-and- 
one-half-ton trucks forward. With S. Sgt. 
John M. Ward, Company I supply ser- 
geant, he again approached the entrance 
of the supply route into the Kail woods 
and was surprised to see in the distance 



two figures in German uniforms and an- 
other in American uniform. The Ameri- 
can-dressed figure waved and yelled to 
them. Cautiously, Lieutenant George 
and Sergeant Ward advanced. They 
found that two of the men were German 
medics and the third a wounded Ameri- 
can officer whom they recognized as the 
112th Infantry S-2, Captain Mont- 
gomery. 

Captain Montgomery had gone for- 
ward the day before with Colonel Lock- 
ett, regimental executive officer, two 
cameramen, and a jeep driver and had 
not been heard from since. Now Cap- 
tain Montgomery revealed that the party 
had proceeded toward the Kali and had 
been nearing the Mestrenger Muehle 
when it had run into a German ambush. 
Captain Montgomery had been wounded 
by the firing, and the entire party had 
been captured. The uninjured Ameri- 
cans were led away and Montgomery 
was left behind. Two German medics 
had come upon him later, and, while 
they attended his wound, he had talked 
them into surrendering. 4 

The Tanks 

About 0700, Captain Hostrup, Com- 
pany A, 707th Tank Battalion, started 
for Kommerscheidt with six tanks, in- 
cluding his own command vehicle. He 
incorporated into one full platoon the 
four tanks left of the 3d Platoon, under 
2d Lt. Richard H. Payne, and the one 
tank of Lieutenant Clarke's 2d Platoon. 
The 2d Platoon tank was apparently one 
of those that had bellied or thrown a 
track in the open south of Vossenack the 
day before. Hostrup put Lieutenant 

4 Combat Interv 75 with George, Dana; 1 12th Inf 
S-2 and S-3 Jnls, 5 Nov 44. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



325 



Payne at the head of the column, and his 
command tank followed in the rear. 
Payne arrived at the woods line overlook- 
ing Kommerscheidt about 0900 and 
halted there at the direction of Lieutenant 
Fleig in Kommerscheidt. Still on the 
Kali trail between Company C, 112th 
Infantry, and the river, Captain Hostrup's 
tank developed engine trouble, stalled, 
and could not be started again. The hill 
mass prevented direct radio communica- 
tion with Fleig, but using Payne's lead 
tank as a relay Hostrup directed Fleig 
to take command of the company until 
he could get forward in his own tank. 
Fleig summoned the five tanks under 
Payne into Kommerscheidt about 1300, 
assigning them the right flank positions. 
He and his three veteran tanks moved to 
the left flank. 5 

Action Again in Kommerscheidt 

Enemy artillery against Kommerscheidt 
continued intermittently after the second 
German attack of the morning. Then, 
about 1400, word passed almost elec- 
trically through the thin line of riflemen 
in foxholes and buildings: "Tanks!" 
The fear of enemy tanks had become 
almost a psychological terror. A num- 
ber of men jumped from their foxholes 
and headed for the rear. Only quick 
action by NCO's and officers prevented 
a general flight. 

The report that enemy tanks were ap- 
proaching was half rumor, half fact. The 
Germans did employ tanks at intervals 
throughout the afternoon, one or two 
tanks supporting small infantry forces 
in what were apparently probing efforts 
against various sectors of the line; but no 



5 Combat Interv 76 with Hostrup-Fleig-Payne. 



general tank attack developed. The 
enemy tankers contented themselves with 
firing, often with deadly effect, from their 
dominating Schmidt positions some 800 
yards away. 

With the arrival of six tank destroyers 
(one was still at the woods line) and five 
more tanks, six destroyers and eight tanks 
were present for the defense. One de- 
stroyer was knocked out during the 
afternoon by enemy tank fire, leaving 
five. The infantry was strengthened 
slightly by the 2d Platoon of Company C, 
112th Infantry, under T. Sgt. Carl 
Beckes, moving up from the woods line 
on the north. 

An air strike by American P-47's hit 
the Germans in Schmidt in midafternoon, 
and men of Company D, 112th Infantry 
saw a P-47 blast a German tank with a 
bomb at a crossroads in the northern 
edge of Schmidt. This was probably 
part of an attack by a squadron of the 
365th Group. At one time during the 
afternoon, a group of Germans tried to 
come in on the left flank of the Kommer- 
scheidt positions over an exposed knoll, 
but mortars of Companies D and M, 
despite an alarming ammunition short- 
age, broke up the attack before it could 
gain momentum. 

The enemy's probing efforts continued 
through the afternoon but accomplished 
little other than harassment of the already 
fatigued defenders. Toward dusk came 
the usual intense enemy mortar and ar- 
tillery barrage, succeeded by routine 
noise of early night movement and inter- 
mittent shelling. The riflemen could 
hear enemy tanks churning around to 
their front, and the voices of German 
soldiers gave the impression that the 
enemy was collecting his dead. One 
group of Germans got so close to the 



326 



THREE BATTLES 



defensive positions that the Germans 
called out for the Americans to surrender. 
A determined burst of small arms fire was 
the response. 6 

Company B, 112th, Moves Up 

The success of the 110th Infantry's 
flanking drive the day before to take 
Simonskall was considered to eliminate 
the necessity of holding Company B, 
112th Infantry, at Richelskaul. With 
Lieutenant Simon, assistant S-3, 3d 
Battalion, leading, the company and its 
attached heavy machine gun platoon 
moved out at midday in single file, pro- 
ceeding cautiously along the edge of the 
woods south of Vossenack, down the Kali 
trail, and into Kommerscheidt. The 
only casualty came when a stray round 
of artillery fire fell as the company moved 
between the northern woods line and 
Kommerscheidt. 

Company B, minus one platoon, went 
into position on the southeast between 
the 3d Battalion elements and Company 
A, The other rifle platoon under T. Sgt. 
Bruce Pitman was to go in with Company 
L and the 3d Platoon, Company A, on 
the southwest. The platoon waited on 
the edge of town for Sergeant Pitman to 
find out from Captain Walker, Company 
L commander, what the platoon sector 
was to be. As the men waited, the 
Germans threw in their usual early 
evening shelling, driving the Americans 
to cover. When Pitman returned, he 
reorganized his men in the darkness. 
One man was missing, and the sergeant 



6 Combat Interv 75 with Dana, Ripperdam, 
Kelly-Hunter, Peril, Holdcn, Pierccy, Walker, 
Toner; Combat Interv 76 with Hostrup-Fleig- 
Payne; 112th Inf S-3 Jnl, 5 Nov 44; FUSA and IX 
TAC Sum, 5 Nov 44. 



again told the platoon to wait while he 
made a search for him. A burning house 
on the edge of town lent an eerie atmos- 
phere to an already tense situation, and 
the men, feeling that every move they 
made was silhouetted against the flames, 
scattered again. When Sergeant Pitman 
failed to return, a squad leader and the 
platoon guide, S. Sgt. Roy Littlehales, 
went to took for him. They found him 
about twenty-five yards away; he had 
been hit by an artillery shell and was 
beyond medical assistance. 7 

The Tank Destroyers 

The remaining platoon of Company C, 
893d Tank Destroyer Battalion, Lieu- 
tenant Edmund's 2d Platoon, with only 
two guns, was delayed in reaching Kom- 
merscheidt because the company com- 
mander, Captain Pugh, wanted to make 
a personal reconnaissance of the situation 
before committing his last two guns. 
Edmund's two vehicles finally reached 
the northern Kommerscheidt woods line 
between 1600 and 1630. Captain Pugh 
placed them in the edge of the woods in 
a reserve position with orders to go into 
Kommerscheidt at daybreak. He had 
been unable to find his two lieutenants, 
Leonard and McElroy, in Kommer- 
scheidt and left for Vossenack to try to 
get at least one replacement officer and 
to form a party for resupply of his guns. 

Five operational tank destroyers were 
now in Kommerscheidt and three were 
behind the Company C, 112th Infantry, 
positions. One of the latter three was 
Lieutenant McElroy's with an oil leak. 
These were all the remaining guns of 



7 Combat Interv 75 with Simon, Littlehales-Skain, 
Walker, Kelly-Hunter; 1 12th Inf S-3 Jnl, 5 Nov 44. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



327 



Company C, 893d. 8 Although the in- 
fantry did not feel that the destroyers 
were sufficiently aggressive, an opinion 
shared by the infantry regimental com- 
mander, the addition of tank destroyers 
had substantially strengthened the Kom- 
merscheidt defense. 9 

Command in Kommerscheidt 

A forward command post group under 
Maj. Richard A. Dana, S-3, 112th 
Infantry, moved up about noon to the 
vicinity of the Company C, 112th, posi- 
tions and later shifted slightly to the rear 
to a hunting lodge alongside the Kail 
trail. While this forward .displacement 
could be expected to assist the Kommer- 
scheidt defense in both command and 
morale, it nevertheless left the rear com- 
mand post virtually nonoperative, pri- 
marily because communications were 
poor and because no one was left in 
nominal command. The S-l, S-4, and 
regimental surgeon had to base most of 
their information on hearsay from strag- 
glers and wounded and from occasional 
supply groups that got through to 
Kommerscheidt. 10 

During the day Colonel Flood, the 3d 
Battalion commander, was evacuated for 
slight wounds and combat exhaustion. 
Before his evacuation Maj. R. C. Chris- 



8 One tank destroyer had developed a leaking 
recoil mechanism on 2 November; another had hit a 
mine near Richelskaul on 4 November; a third had 
thrown a track southeast of Vossenack; a fourth was 
knocked out in Kommerscheidt that afternoon by 
enemy tank fire. 

9 Combat Interv 75 with Simon, Kelly-Hunter; 
Combat Interv 76 with Pugh. In view of the 
enemy's terrain advantage and the lack of armor on 
tank destroyers, there seems to be insufficient evidence 
to characterize the destroyers as nonaggressive. 

10 Combat Interv 75 with Dana; 1 12th Inf S-3 Jnl, 
5 Nov 44; Ltr, Maj Berndt to Hist Div. 



tensen, executive officer, assumed com- 
mand. The 1st and 3d Battalions had 
lost so many men and had become so 
intermingled that Major Hazlett, the 1st 
Battalion commander, was placed in 
over-all command of both battalions. 
Captain Walker, Company L, was placed 
under him in command of all infantry 
elements on the right flank, consisting 
now of one platoon of Company A, ele- 
ments of Companies I and L, and, after 
dark, Sergeant Pitman's platoon of 
Company B. 11 

Telephone facilities to the rear had 
become almost nonexistent on 5 Novem- 
ber. Communications consisted primar- 
ily of radios, with some use made of 
messengers. After dark Lieutenant Si- 
mon, assistant S-3, 3d Battalion, was 
sent back with a message from Colonel 
Peterson to General Cota, delivered at 
about 2300. In effect, the message said 
that the 1st and 3d Battalions were pretty 
well disorganized, that the men were 
shell shocked, that the armor in Kom- 
merscheidt was not as strong as desired, 
that the tank destroyers were not suffi- 
ciently aggressive, and that he (Peterson) 
would try to reorganize and hold the 
town. He added that if possible he 
would try to retake Schmidt; but ap- 
parently such optimism on the part of 
the regimental commander was forced. 12 

The Engineers 

The 1st Platoon of Company C, 20th 
Engineers, which had dug in the night 
before with its company headquarters 
group to the rear of Company C, 112th 
Infantry, early on 5 November began 

11 Combat Interv 75 with Walker, Simon, Dana. 

12 Combat Interv 75 with Simon; 28th Div G-3 
Jnl, 5 Nov 44; Interv with Peterson, 



328 



THREE BATTLES 



maintenance of the main supply route 
from the bridge to Kommerscheidt. Just 
before dark a nine-man mine detector 
detail attempted to check the roads 
within the town, but enemy artillery fire 
discouraged its efforts. Lieutenant Os- 
sola's platoon of Company B, 20th 
Engineers, continued maintenance and 
revetment of shoulders of the supply route 
west of the Kali. Company A, 20th, 
which had gone into defensive positions 
designated by General Davis in the edge 
of the woods on the southeastern nose of 
Vossenack ridge, left one platoon, the 3d, 
in the defense and sent the others to work 
on the trail east of the Kali. Some men 
of the company assisted Company B with 
the bulldozer and air compressors, and 
the four-man security guard remained on 
the river bridge. 13 

The Greene Hornets 

Lieutenant Greene's "Greene Hornet" 
patrol squad had been inactive since its 
first flank security patrol mission on 3 
November, thus ceasing virtually the only 
patrolling in which the regiment engaged 
during the period. On the night of 4 
November Greene received orders to lead 
a group of officers and enlisted men, who 
had returned from Paris passes, to their 
units in Kommerscheidt. The lieutenant 
volunteered to take an SCR 300 forward 
with him. He delivered it in Kommer- 
scheidt after its aerial had been "snapped 
by rifle fire" in the Kail valley; after 
approximately ten minutes' operation, 
the radio refused to function. Greene 
then returned to the rear, stopped at the 
forward regimental switchboard in the 
former German barracks at Germeter, 

13 Combat Interv 75 with White, Lutz, Doherty, 
Krieder. 



and began to assist the operators in 
placing calls. When a party from the 
2d Battalion, 112th Infantry, discovered 
that his operator was Lieutenant Greene, 
he asked the lieutenant to relay fire 
missions — his own communications to 
supporting fires had been knocked out. 
For the remainder of the operation, while 
his patrol group worked at bringing in 
prisoners, carrying rations, and perform- 
ing general supply tasks, Lieutenant 
Greene continued to act as a fire relay 
which became known as the "Greene 
Hornet Switch" from his melodramatic 
answer to all calls: "This is the Greene 
Hornet."" 

Tank Supply 

At approximately 2000 a 707th Tank 
Battalion supply party with one jeep, 
three weasels, and one two-and-one-half- 
ton truck carrying gasoline, rations, 
water, two batteries, and a tank generator 
reached the entrance of the Kail trail 
into the valley woods. With a white 
handkerchief tied around his helmet, 
Captain Pynchon, battalion Sj-4, led the 
way on foot. The column moved slowly, 
often being held up to allow medical 
jeeps to pass toward the rear. Some 300 
yards past the river bridge, the party was 
subjected to eight or nine rounds of 
enemy shellfire. One helmet was blown 
off. 

Reaching the woods line north of 
Kommerscheidt shortly after 2200, Capt. 
Donald C. Kelley, Headquarters Com- 
pany, 707th Tank Battalion, and 1st Lt. 
Charles S. Weniger, Service Company 
transportation officer, continued with the 
weasels to the slight draw just northwest 
of Kommerscheidt. There they went on 

14 Combat Interv 75 with Greene. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



329 



foot from tank to tank distributing the 
supplies. Lieutenant Fleig asked them 
to report to Captain Hostrup that the 
tankers in Kommerscheidt would not use 
their radios except under absolute neces- 
sity, because they had been under almost 
constant shelling all day and felt, rightly 
or wrongly, that the radios were drawing 
fire. 

Now that passage of the main supply 
route with a two-and-one-half-ton truck 
had been proved feasible, Lieutenant 
Weniger left with a weasel for Germeter 
in order to get additional trucks to bring 
up more ammunition while it was still 
dark and establish a forward ammunition 
supply point. The lieutenant's weasel 
threw a track immediately upon starting 
back, and he had to return for another. 
The second time he continued without 
mishap. Captain Kelley believed the 
excessive number of thrown weasel tracks 
was due to the fact that the drivers were 
hastily converted infantrymen who had 
had only three days' experience with their 
vehicles. 

Captain Pynchon, Captain Kelley, and 
the Headquarters Company supply ser- 
geant, S. Sgt. Curtis E. Walker, remained 
in the Kommerscheidt area, and Lieu- 
tenant Rogers left for Germeter with the 
remaining empty weasel, the jeep, and 
the two-and-one-half-ton truck just after 
midnight. The return column came 
under enemy mortar fire near the Kali 
bridge but escaped unscathed. At the 
exit of the trail from the woods southeast 
of Vossenack the truck found difficulty 
in climbing the steep, slippery grade. 
An engineer bulldozer close by was called 
to assist, and the two big vehicles drew 
spasmodic machine gun fire from the 
woods line to the sputhwest. There were 
no casualties, and the column was soon 



able to move on. It came under heavy 
enemy artillery fire in Vossenack but 
eventually reached Germeter safely about 
0330 (6 November). 15 

Infantry Supply 

Lieutenant George, who was in charge 
of supplying the infantry in Kommer- 
scheidt and who had earlier in the day 
come upon Captain Montgomery and the 
two German medics, went forward again 
around dusk with a supply force of one 
two-and-one-half-ton truck and several 
weasels. Once the group reached the 
wooded part of the Kali trail, Lieutenant 
George put Sergeant Ward, the Company 
I supply sergeant, in charge of the train 
and himself returned to Germeter for 
another supply train. It consisted of 
two trucks, one jeep, and three weasels, 
two of which towed 57-mm. antitank 
guns from the 3d Battalion, 112th Infan- 
try. Once again reaching the entrance 
of the trail into the woods southeast of 
Vossenack, Lieutenant George told his 
men to take cover in abandoned foxholes 
near by while he made a reconnaissance 
on foot. Farther along the trail he found 
Sergeant Ward and was told by him that 
the advance supply train had gone 
through, although one weasel had thrown 
a track. The intense artillery fire in the 
area had affected Ward's nerves so badly 
that George sent the sergeant to the rear 
to report to the medics. 

Returning to his supply train, Lieu- 
tenant George slowly and cautiously led 
his vehicles along the treacherous trail. 
Nevertheless, one of the weasels threw a 
track. While the men detached the 
antitank gun, attached it again to the 

15 Combat Interv 76 with Pynchon, Hostrup- 
Fleig-Payne, and Kelley. 



330 



THREE BATTLES 



jeep, and began to transfer the weasel's 
supplies to the other vehicles, one squad 
of the 3d Battalion Antitank Platoon 
under S. Sgt. Leo L. Cannon moved on 
ahead in one of the remaining weasels. 

The main column under Lieutenant 
George started forward again and had 
almost reached the bottom of the gorge 
when the men saw a sudden bright glow 
up ahead and heard an explosion. A 
few minutes later a man from Sergeant 
Cannon's antitank gun crew staggered 
back to them. Burned almost black, 
the soldier said the squad had been am- 
bushed. The Germans had blasted their 
weasel with three phosphorous grenades 
or shells. Moving forward to investigate, 
the remainder of Lieutenant George's 
supply group saw no Germans but found 
another antitank soldier burned slightly 
and two others seriously injured. Ser- 
geant Cannon could not be found. 

With this warning fresh in mind, the 
column put out security for the con- 
tinuance of its movement. Six rounds 
of artillery fell near it at the switchbacks 
east of the river, but it reached the for- 
ward regimental command post unmo- 
lested. Lieutenant George established 
an ammunition supply point in the 
vicinity of the Company C, 112th Infan- 
try, positions, and the men dug in for the 
night, the two 57-mm. guns going into 
positions with the near-by infantry. 

The time was now about midnight. 
Although the enemy ambush indicated 
that the Germans planned to infiltrate 
the supply route, the empty vehicles of 
Lieutenant Rogers, 707th Tank Battalion, 
moved through it without mishap after 
midnight. There was even an engineer 
bulldozer working in the area as the 
column passed. 16 

16 Combat Interv 75 with George. 



Tank Destroyer Supply 

Back in Vossenack to check on supply 
and to try to get officer replacements, 
Captain Pugh, commander of Company 
C, 893d Tank Destroyer Battalion, re- 
ceived a radio message about 2200 from 
Lieutenant Edmund, 2d Tank Destroyer 
Platoon leader, in the edge of the Kom- 
merscheidt woods. The 1st and 3d 
Tank Destroyer Platoons from the town 
had by this time joined Edmund's and 
all three were planning to move to Kom- 
merscheidt before daylight. But now, 
Edmund reported to Pugh, an unidenti- 
fied infantry captain, claiming that the 
infantry in Kommerscheidt were pulling 
out without the presence of the destroy- 
ers, was ordering them back into Kom- 
merscheidt immediately. Captain Pugh 
told Lieutenant Edmund to hold the 
destroyers where they were. 

A few minutes later Captain Pugh re- 
ceived another radio message — to report 
to the forward regimental command post. 
The trail to the command post across the 
Kali was blocked by a supply train, and 
Pugh had to wait. Lieutenant Edmund 
radioed again: the same infantry captain 
was again insisting that the tank destroy- 
ers move back into Kommerscheidt. 
Radioing Colonel Mays, 893d command- 
er, for concurrence, Captain Pugh again 
ordered Lieutenant Edmund to remain 
where he was. As the company com- 
mander still waited to cross the Kail, the 
1st Tank Destroyer Platoon sergeant, 
S. Sgt. Arlie W. Wilson, radioed that the 
infantry captain was "raising hell," even 
threatening court-martial if the destroy- 
ers were not moved forward. Captain 
Pugh repeated his orders, but the 1st and 
3d Platoons went back into town shortly 
after the last call — they had apparently 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



331 



tired of wrangling. Hearing an explo- 
sion in the Kail gorge that meant one 
of the supply vehicles ahead had hit a 
mine, Pugh gave up his attempt to get 
forward that night and returned to 
Vossenack. 17 

While Captain Pugh was waiting to 
cross the river, Lieutenant Fuller, recon- 
naissance platoon leader for the tank 
destroyers, attempted to move forward 
in an armored car to resupply the tank 
destroyers in Kommerscheidt. When he 
reached the valley trail and found it 
blocked by a weasel and three or four 
other vehicles, he returned to Vossenack 
with ammunition and planned to make 
another attempt to go through the next 
day. Apparently both Lieutenant Fuller 
and Captain Pugh had corne upon the 
tail of Lieutenant George's last infantry 
supply column. 18 

Back at the division command post, 
Colonel Mays, 893d commander, had 
received what must have been a delayed 
report that an infantry supply train was 
moving to Kommerscheidt about mid- 
night. He radioed his Company B in 
Vossenack to be alert for this train and 
to attach one of its platoons to it. The 
train had evidently passed before Com- 
pany B received the message, for the 
company never saw the supply column. 19 

The Medics 

On 5 November the aid station of the 
1st Battalion, 112th Infantry, was still in 
a basement in the northern edge of Kom- 
merscheidt, while the 3d Battalion aid 
station remained in the log dugout along- 

17 Combat Interv 76 with Pugh. 

18 Combat Interv 76 with Fuller. 

19 Combat Interv 76 with Mays, Davis-Murphy- 
Gardner, 



side the main supply route in the Kali 
gorge west of the river. In Kommer- 
scheidt the 1st Battalion surgeon, Captain 
Linguiti, had been disturbed by con- 
tinued concentration of fighting personnel 
and equipment around his aid station 
site. After a supply train had deposited 
its load near the aid station entrance 
before daylight and distribution had 
taken place from there for several hours, 
he had no doubt about the cause of an 
enemy shelling that centered on the 
house, injuring several patients and 
killing three medics. 

During the afternoon medical weasels 
and available jeeps, including that of the 
3d Battalion chaplain, were used to 
shuttle patients from the Kommerscheidt 
aid station to the 3d Battalion station 
alongside the main supply route. When 
all patients from the forward site had 
been evacuated, the medical officers de- 
cided to abandon the 1st Battalion station 
except as a forward collecting point and 
to combine the two battalions' medical 
facilities in the log dugout. Eight litter 
bearers from the 1st Battalion and a 
driver with his jeep were left to man the 
collecting point. 

Many walking wounded were evacu- 
ated past the 3d Battalion aid station. 
They were sent on foot to the edge of the 
woods southeast of Vossenack where 
ambulances from Company C, 103d 
Medical Battalion, maintained a forward 
loading point. Lack of weasels and 
litter bearers prevented further evacua- 
tion of many litter cases, although all 
personnel of the regimental aid station 
who could be spared had already been 
sent forward as substitute litter bearers. 

The first indication the medical per- 
sonnel had of any impending infiltration 
of the Kail trail came near midnight. 



332 



THREE BATTLES 



Pfc. Delmar C. Putney, leading a group 
of walking wounded from Kommer- 
scheidt, was stopped by enemy medics on 
the trail east of the river. The Germans 
forced him at gunpoint to carry a wound- 
ed German soldier for some distance 
along the trail. They then released 
Putney, and he made his way to the log 
aid station and told his story. 20 

Formation of Task Force R 

By noon of 5 November wishful rumor 
had spread among the fighting men in 
Kommerscheidt that division was forming 
a special task force to take over their 
positions. They were to be relieved ! 
The first indication of positive action 
along such lines did not come until late 
afternoon when Colonel Ripple, com- 
mander of the 707th Tank Battalion, was 
informed by General Cota that he was 
to command such a task force. Ripple's 
men, however, were not to relieve the 
defenders of Kommerscheidt but to pass 
through them and recapture Schmidt. 
The Kommerscheidt defenders were to 
follow and assist in holding Schmidt at 
all costs. The attack was to be launched 
before noon the next day, 6 November. 

Colonel Ripple learned that his task 
force was to consist of the 3d Battalion, 
110th Infantry, already weakened by 
fighting in the woods to the south; Com- 

20 Linguiti Rpt; Muglia Rpt; DeMarco-Linguiti 
Rpt; Maj Albert L. Berndt, 112th Inf surgeon, 
Report on Medical Evacuation, to division surgeon, 
10 Nov 44 (hereafter cited as Berndt Rpt), Combat 
Interv File 76; Ltr, Maj Berndt to Hist Div. Major 
Berndt says that Germans throughout this operation 
wore Luger or "P-38" pistols. Later, as a German 
prisoner, he noted all German medics wearing pistols 
as "a part of the uniform." Once when an American 
officer asked to see one of the pistols, he found its bolt 
rusted tight. Berndt also said he never heard of 
German medics firing. 



pany A, 707th Tank Battalion, already 
in Kommerscheidt with nine remaining 
tanks; Company D, 707th, the battalion's 
light tank company; Company C, 893d 
Tank Destroyer Battalion, already in 
Kommerscheidt but reduced by four 
destroyers and possibly a fifth (Lieutenant 
McEIroy's with an oil leak at the Kom- 
merscheidt woods line); and one platoon 
of Company B, 893d. An SCR 193 was 
to provide direct communication with 
division. 

The infantrymen, only recently re- 
moved from a grueling battle against 
fortified positions in the wooded 110th 
Infantry sector, left on foot from Ger- 
meter for Kommerscheidt about 0245 (6 
November). They numbered approxi- 
mately 300, a third of whom were heavy 
weapons personnel. The platoon of tank 
destroyers from Company B, 893d, was 
the unit that received orders from Colonel 
Mays too late to attach itself to an infan- 
try supply train moving through Vosse- 
nack about midnight. Just when the 
light tanks of Company D, 707th Tank 
Battalion, were to move to Kommer- 
scheidt was not made clear, for they had 
been assisting the 28th Reconnaissance 
Troop in blocking in the woods southwest 
of the 110th Infantry and did not leave 
those positions until 8 November. 

In Vossenack the infantry column was 
delayed by enemy shelling. On the 
southeastern nose of Vossenack ridge, it 
was met by Captain Pugh, Company C, 
893d Tank Destroyer Battalion, who 
asked for at least a platoon of infantry to 
accompany a platoon of Company B's 
destroyers down the Kail trail. Colonel 
Ripple refused. He considered his in- 
fantry force already too far understrength 
and planned to take his column down 
the firebreak to the river instead of using 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



333 



the trail. Almost as soon as the infantry 
column entered the woods at the fire- 
break, it became engaged in a small arms 
fight which lasted almost the length of its 
trek through the woods to the river. 
With the approach of daylight, Task 
Force R's infantry component was still 
fighting to get across the Kali. 21 

The Engineers 

After dark on 5 November the two 
platoons of Company A, 20th Engineers, 
which had been working on the Kail trail 
east of the river, returned to their former 
defensive bivouac just inside the woods 
on the southeastern nose of Vossenack 
ridge, leaving the company's four-man 
security guard at the bridge. Lieutenant 
Ossola's platoon of Company B continued 
to work on the supply route west of the 
Kail and near the bridge, while the other 
two platoons of Company B remained all 
day in Vossenack. The 1st Platoon, 
Company C, was dug in near Company 
C, 112th Infantry, on the east bank near 
the Kommerscheidt woods line; the 2d 
Platoon was still on a mine-clearing mis- 
sion with the 109th Infantry. The 3d 
Platoon, Company C, under Lieutenant 
Johns, whose mission to transport TNT 
to a forward dump had been postponed 
the previous night, left Germeter about 
2200 with two trucks, one loaded with 

21 Combat Interv 76 with Hostrup-Fleig-Payne, 
Pugh, Ripple, Davis-Murphy-Gardner, Mays, and 
Capt George H. Rumbaugh and S Sgt Martin J. 
Joyce, 3d Bn, 1 10th Inf; 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 5 Nov 44; 
707th Tk Bn S-3 Jnl, 8 Nov 44; V Corps Study, G-3 
and TD Sees. According to Colonel Ripple the task 
force included Company C, 707th, instead of Com- 
pany A, 707th, but the 28th Division G-3 Journal 
states that it was A, 707th. Since Company A was 
already in Kommerscheidt, it is assumed the G-3 
Journal is correct. V Corps Study and V Corps 
Operations in the ETO mention neither company as 
part of the task force. 



5,000 pounds of explosives and the other 
with two squads of men. A third squad 
remained to guard the rear explosives 
dump at Germeter. 

After unloading the explosives near the 
Kali bridge some time after midnight, 
the two squads crossed the river to join 
their company's 1st Platoon near Com- 
pany C, 112th Infantry, for the night. 
A heavy shelling hit them near the east 
bank switchbacks, wounding two men 
and killing another, and Lieutenant 
Johns returned to the Kail's west bank 
to deposit his wounded at the log aid 
station. The remaining members of his 
two squads began to dig in near the trail 
about thirty yards west of the Kali 
bridge. Except for the four-man secur- 
ity guard at the bridge, they thus consti- 
tuted the only obstacle to uninterrupted 
north-south German movement through 
the Kali gorge. 22 

Lieutenant Johns' two squads had been 
digging in on the west bank near the 
bridge for only about ten to fifteen 
minutes (they thought the time was about 
0230 or 0300, 6 November), when a Ger- 
man jumped out on the trail some fifteen 
yards away, blew two shrill blasts with a 
whistle, and shouted something in Ger- 
man. The whistle blasts were the signal 
for a maze of German small arms fire 
which seemed to the engineers to come 
upon them from all sides. 

Before the firing started Sgt. William 
O'Neal had been digging a foxhole with 
another soldier on the left flank of the 
engineer squads. They struck a rock and 
decided to try another spot. O'Neal had 
his hands full of equipment when the 
enemy struck. One German with a burp 
gun began firing from about seven yards 

22 Combat Interv 75 with Doherty, Krieder, Lutz, 
O'Neal; Sonnefield Rpt; Sonnefield Statement. 



334 



THREE BATTLES 



away. Unable to fire because his rifle 
was at sling arms, O'Neal half jumped 
and half rolled into a small patch of scrub 
pine. When the enemy began to send 
up flares, he could see some of the engi- 
neers of his platoon lying on the ground 
near by, whether wounded or dead, he 
could not tell. It seemed to him that the 
Germans must have destroyed most of 
the two squads with their first blasts, for 
what little fire the Americans returned 
seemed to come from the other flank of 
the position. Waiting until the shooting 
diminished some thirty minutes later, 
Sergeant O'Neal crawled off through the 
trees and came upon another member of 
his platoon who had been left as a guard 
at a pile of shovels. He had tried to 
warn the squads, this man said, but had 
lost his way trying to find them. The 
Germans, he said, had passed right by 
him on their way up the trail. 

Lieutenant Ossola's 3d Platoon, Com- 
pany B, 20th Engineers, had been work- 
ing on the trail near Lieutenant Johns' 
platoon. When enemy artillery fire 
began to fall dangerously close, the men 
took cover in a ditch near a culvert. 
Because they had put out no local secur- 
ity, the appearance of the Germans took 
them by surprise. The enemy set up 
machine guns only a few feet from the 
ditch, but the engineers held their fire 
for fear of revealing their presence. 

Beyond the river, men of the 1st Pla- 
toon, Company C, 20th Engineers, could 
hear German firing in the river valley, 
but they were afraid to return the fire and 
run the risk of hitting other Americans. 
And at the bridge the four-man security 
guard under T/4 Krieder heard the first 
whistle blasts and the subsequent firing. 
Five Germans later ran across the stone 
bridge, followed almost immediately by 



twenty-five or thirty Germans, but 
Krieder and his men also feared revealing 
their presence to this superior force and 
did not fire. 23 

About 0300 there was a knock at the 
door of the log dugout which the two 
infantry battalions shared as an aid 
station. The visitor proved to be a Ger- 
man private who quickly called up a 
German NCO. A 3d Battalion medical 
clerk who spoke German, Pfc. Joseph 
Cally, talked with the Germans, telling 
them that these were American medics 
caring for wounded. The Germans 
asked if they had rations. When Cally 
replied that they had enough for one day, 
the enemy noncom said he would return 
with more rations and some German 
medics; in the meantime, the Americans 
must remain. To insure compliance, a 
German guard was left at the door. At 
intervals throughout the remainder of the 
night the aid station personnel could see 
German patrols near their dugout, in- 
cluding one group which mined the Kali 
trail; but at daylight the German guard 
at the door was gone. 24 

The Situation in Vossenack 

On 5 November the situation of the 2d 
Battalion, 112th Infantry, in Vossenack 
repeated that of the day before except 
that the condition of the men under the 
intense enemy shelling became more and 
more critical. Occasional enemy patrols 
hit the exposed forward position of the 

M Engr story is from the following: Combat Interv 
75 with O'Neal, Lutz, White, Krieder, Doherty, and 
Cpl Marion Martone, Co B, 20th Engrs; Lutz State- 
ment; Doherty Statement. 

24 2d Lt Henry W. Morrison, MAC, 1st Bn, 1 12th 
Inf, Report of Medical Evacuation, to div surgeon, 
10 Nov 44 (hereafter cited as Morrison Rpt), Combat 
Interv File 76; Berndt Rpt; Linguiti Rpt; Muglia 
Rpt; DeMarco-Linguiti Rpt. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



335 



Vossenack ridge, and shattered nerves 
gave rise to many reports of enemy coun- 
terattacks which did not actually develop. 

Early in the morning the 2d Squad of 
the 1st Platoon, Company F, under S. 
Sgt. Charles W. Cascarano, in position 
at the head of a shallow wooded draw 
leading into the positions on the east, 
saw about twenty Germans moving in 
a column of twos through the wooded 
draw toward its positions. The squad's 
automatic rifleman sprayed the Germans 
with fire, wounding nine, killing four, and 
putting the rest to flight. The wounded 
Germans lay where they had fallen for 
about four or five hours, moaning and 
crying, before five German medics with 
a cart picked them up. 

The enemy shelled the open ridge with 
artillery from the direction of the Bran- 
denberg-Bergstein ridge and with self- 
propelled guns and tanks, sometimes 
firing twenty or thirty rounds at one 
foxhole before shifting targets. The men 
noticed no lessening in the fire even when 
American planes were overhead. In the 
Company E area, four men who were 
using a barn for shelter were buried in 
an avalanche of baled hay when the 
upper part of the barn collapsed from a 
direct artillery hit. Frantic efforts by 
others of the company to dig out the 
men were unavailing, and the building 
burned. 

The regular Company E commander, 
1st Lt. Melvin R. Barrilleaux, who had 
returned the night before from a Paris 
leave, visited his platoons after dark. He 
found most of his men so affected by the 
shelling that he felt they all should be 
evacuated. Many were in such a shock- 
ed, dazed condition that the platoon 
leaders had to order them to eat, and one 
platoon leader was himself evacuated for 



combat exhaustion. Virtually the same 
situation existed in the other three 
companies. 

Intrabattalion communications were 
very poor: when Lieutenant Barrilleaux 
reported to the battalion CP after the 
building that housed his company CP 
had burned, the battalion officers were 
amazed to see him; they had thought him 
dead in the fire. Communications to 
regiment consisted of only sporadic radio 
operation, and the artillery's wire to the 
"Greene Hornet Switch" operated only 
occasionally. 

The battalion commander, Lt. Col. 
Theodore S. Hatzfeld, had himself be- 
come a virtual combat exhaustion case. 
He insisted on remaining at his post, but 
Capt. John D. Pruden, the battalion 
executive officer, conducted the major 
command functions. 

Just before dark enemy shelling meth- 
odically wiped out six men in two-man 
foxholes of Company G along the trail 
that was an extension of the town's main 
street. When the men near by saw their 
companions blown to bits, some pulled 
back to the houses, leaving an undefended 
gap of more than a hundred yards in the 
center of the defense. Efforts by officers 
of both Company G and Company F to 
fill this gap went for nought. The troops 
ordered into the holes, utterly fatigued, 
their nerves shattered, many of them 
crying unashamedly, would return to the 
dubious protection of the houses. 

The company commanders reported 
the situation to battalion; battalion in- 
formed them it was being reported to 
regiment; and no relief came. 25 Higher 

25 Colonel Daley says that, after having seen the 
situation in Vossenack on 4 November, he was so 
concerned that he stopped by the 1 12th Infantry rear 
CP and reported it, possibly to the regimental S-3. 
See Ltr, Col Daley to Hist Div. 



336 



THREE BATTLES 



headquarters may have failed to act be- 
cause there was no adequate regimental 
or divisional reserve. One possible rem- 
edy, pulling the defenses back from the 
exposed forward nose to the line of 
houses, was not tried, and the regiment's 
situation report for the day listed the 
combat condition of its command as 
"excellent." 

Two towed guns of Company B, 630th 
Tank Destroyer Battalion, in position 
near the Vossenack church, were dam- 
aged by the enemy shellfire. They were 
towed out during the night. Three 
57-mm. antitank guns of Antitank Com- 
pany, 112th Infantry, went into the town 
during the day but were supplied with 
only armor-piercing ammunition and 
never fired. The 2d Battalion's medical 
aid station had been set up in the former 
German barracks at Germeter under 
Capt. Morris Katz, battalion surgeon, 
and a forward collecting point was being 
maintained near the Vossenack church. 
Casualties were evacuated by jeep to 
Germeter. 26 

Armor in Vossenack 

The ten remaining tanks of Company 
C, 707th Tank Battalion, had withdrawn 
from Vossenack with battalion approval 
during the night of 4-5 November to a 
bivouac-ready position near Germeter. 
Lieutenant Leming's 2d Platoon moved 
up again at dawn on 5 November to fire 
into the wooded draw north of Vossenack 
because enemy small arms and mortar 
fire had been reported from that direc- 



26 Combat Interv 75 with Pruden, Nesbitt, Condon, 
Beggs, Barrilleaux, Kauffman, Cascarano, Johnson, 
Crain, and Cp! Joseph E. PhiJpot, Co G, 112th Inf; 
112th Inf S-3 Jnl, 5 Nov 44; V Corps Study, TD 
Sec; Ltr, Maj Berndt to Hist Div. 



tion. One of Leming's tanks was hit by 
high explosive fire that put its 75-mm. 
gun out of action, wounded the assistant 
driver, and killed the driver. The re- 
mainder of the tanks returned to Ger- 
meter. 

About 1300 1st Lt. James J. Ryan, 
company maintenance officer, went for- 
ward with a T-2 retriever from the 
battalion maintenance section in an effort 
to fix a tank that had hit a mine on 2 
November. Enemy artillery made it 
impossible for the repair crew to work 
except during occasional lulls, and the 
tank was eventually towed back to 
Germeter. 

When the tankers were notified of a 
reported counterattack against Vossenack 
about 1400, both Lieutenant Leming's 
2d Platoon and Lieutenant Quarrie's 1st 
Platoon went back into town. No coun- 
terattack materialized, and Leming's 
tanks withdrew again to cover positions 
near Germeter. Quarrie's platoon stayed 
in town in conformance with recent 
orders that the company had to keep at 
least one platoon of tanks in Vossenack 
at all times. 27 

Until 5 November Company B, 707th 
Tank Battalion, had been attached to 
the 110th Infantry in its attack to the 
south; but because the heavily wooded 
terrain in that sector limited maneuver, 
its tanks had been employed only as close- 
support artillery. About noon of 5 No- 
vember the company commander, Capt. 
George S. Granger, was ordered to move 
his platoons to Germeter preparatory to 
relieving Company C, 707th, in Vosse- 
nack. Delayed by mud and by tele- 
phone lines strung almost in the trails, 
for the indiscriminately mined forests had 

27 Combat Interv 76 with Leming-Quarrie-Jenk- 
ins-Ryan. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



337 



prompted communications men not to 
hazard movement off the trails when 
laying their wires, the tankers arrived 
in Germeter shortly after dusk. 

Plans were made between the two tank 
companies for Company B to take over 
the mission of keeping one platoon in 
Vossenack, and about 0500 the next 
morning (6 November) the 1st Platoon 
of 1st Lt. Carl A. Anderson, Jr., moved 
forward. Anderson had difficulty in the 
dark finding the route used by the Com- 
pany C tankers around the north of town. 
Not knowing where he would find the 
front-line foxholes, Lieutenant Anderson 
shifted his tanks into a line formation. 
Several infantrymen running toward the 
rear passed them. As the tanks crossed 
a slight rise before coming out on the 
northern nose of the ridge, the crewmen 
saw incoming small arms tracers from 
the draw northeast of Vossenack. Con- 
fused and alarmed by the running infan- 
trymen, the small arms fire, and the lack 
of orientation, the tankers opened fire 
with their machine guns on the wooded 
draw to their front. 28 

The three tank destroyer platoons of 
Company B, 893d Tank Destroyer Bat- 
talion, which had moved into position 
with the rifle companies in Vossenack at 
dawn on 5 November, found the area 
saturated with enemy mortar and artil- 
lery fire. Before noon all four destroyers 
of Lieutenant Davis' 1st Platoon with 
Company G, 112th Infantry, had been 
hit at least four times. The platoon's 
infantry guide had been killed as the 
destroyers moved into position and six 
men had been wounded. 

Shortly after dark the 2d and 3d Tank 

28 Combat Interv 76 with Anderson, S Sgt Letford 
W. Walling, and S Sgt John B. Cook. All of Co B, 
707th Tk Bn. 



Destroyer Platoons were moved back to 
ready positions near Richelskaul. The 
1st Platoon, still in Vossenack, was alerted 
about midnight to move to Kommer- 
scheidt with an infantry supply train. 
There was no sign of the supply train, 
and Lieutenant Davis' destroyers re- 
mained on the Vossenack ridge. An 
hour or so before dawn the crewmen were 
alarmed to see infantrymen moving back 
from their foxholes. 29 

Meanwhile, Captain Pugh, commander 
of Company C, 893d Tank Destroyer 
Battalion, and Lieutenant Fuller, whose 
attempts earlier in the night to resupply 
the destroyers in Kommerscheidt had 
failed, moved out again about 0530 with 
two jeeps in another effort to get ammu- 
nition and rations to Kommerscheidt. 
Fuller rode in the first jeep and Pugh in 
the second with a driver and 2d Lt. Louis 
J. Izzo. Izzo was going forward to take 
command of either the 1st or the 3d Tank 
Destroyer Platoon in Kommerscheidt; 
both platoon leaders, Lieutenant Leonard 
and Lieutenant McElroy, were pre- 
sumably missing. 

Lieutenant Fuller, driving his own jeep 
and accompanied by two enlisted men, 
had gone about 300 yards south of Vosse- 
nack on the open southeastern nose when 
he spotted what seemed to be about forty 
Germans armed with machine guns, 
grenades, and at least one Panzerfaust. 
Captain Pugh, Lieutenant Fuller, and 
the Germans seemed to act at once. 
Pugh yelled, "Look out!" and fired his 
jeep's machine gun, but the weapon 
jammed. Fuller stepped on the gas, and 
his companion in the front seat fired 
about ten rounds from the jeep's machine 
gun. Captain Pugh jumped out of the 



29 Combat Interv 76 with Davis-Murphy-Gardner. 



338 



THREE BATTLES 



left side of his jeep almost at the same 
time that a Panzerfaust rocket grazed the 
top of the jeep, wrecking the windshield, 
A husky German then came at him with 
a bayonet. He batted it away, suffering 
only a gash across three fingers, and ran 
back toward Vossenack. His driver and 
Lieutenant Izzo also escaped and soon 
joined Captain Pugh in the town. 

The Germans turned their machine 
guns on Fuller's jeep and hit Fuller's 
gunner as well as the enlisted man riding 
in the back seat. The lieutenant yelled 
for another burst from the jeep's machine 
gun, but the gunner answered, "I can't, 
Lieutenant; I'm dying right here!" 
Unable to give any assistance at the 
moment, Fuller made his way back to 
the southern edge of Vossenack. There 
he found Captain Pugh, the driver, and 
Lieutenant Izzo and told them he wanted 
to go back for the two wounded enlisted 
men. 

At that moment Pugh and Fuller 
spotted several tank destroyers heading 
out of Vossenack toward Kommerscheidt. 
These were from 2d Lt. Horace L. Smith's 
2d Platoon of Company B, 893d, which 
had been ordered forward from Germeter 
to join Task Force R in Kommerscheidt. 
Captain Pugh and Lieutenant Fuller 
commandeered two of them and went 
forward again. It was still dark, and 
the atmosphere was foggy. Near the 
ambush site, they fired the destroyer's 
machine guns, killing several of the Ger- 
mans and putting the others to flight. 
The rescue party found Pugh's jeep 
wrecked. The man in the back seat of 
Fuller's jeep was badly wounded, and 
the gunner in the front seat was dead, 
shot through the stomach. A short time 
later the infantry of Task Force R under 
Colonel Ripple, 707th Tank Battalion, 



arrived on the southeastern nose in their 
move toward the Kali firebreak and 
Kommerscheidt. 30 

This action along the western portion 
of the Kali trail took place at a time when 
28th Division headquarters thought the 
entire trail open to traffic. Colonel 
Daley, 1171st Engineer Group com- 
mander, had made the first report of 
enemy infiltration at 0355 (6 November) 
but at 0445 had informed division that 
the route was open and that the 20th 
Engineers had been told to keep it open. 
At 0635 Colonel Daley again reported to 
division that the road was open at 0500. 
At 0715 General Cota ordered the en- 
gineer group commander to provide 
security for the bridge, and at 0747 
Colonel Daley reported that the 20th 
Engineers had men along the road. Not 
until 0800 (6 November) did Colonel 
Daley get what was apparently accurate 
information on the situation along the 
Kail trail. He immediately ordered the 
20th Engineers: "Get every man you 
have in line fighting. Establish contact 
with the Infantry on right and left. . . ." 
Nothing was done to comply with this 
order, for by this time another crucial 
situation farther to the rear had altered 
the picture. 31 

Artillery Support 

During 5 November the 229th Field 
Artillery Battalion, in direct support of 
the 112th Infantry, spent one of its 
busiest days, firing heavy and frequent 
concentrations in the Kommerscheidt- 
Schmidt vicinity. The battalion fired 



30 Combat Interv 76 with Fuller, Pugh. Quotes 
are from Fuller. 

31 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 6 Nov 44; Combat Interv 75 
with Daley; Sonnefield Statement. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



339 



249 missions totaling 3,947 rounds, in- 
cluding 247 neutralization missions, one 
registration, and one TOT. All com- 
panies of the 86th Chemical Battalion 
reverted to attachment to division artil- 
lery except Company D, which spent its 
time withdrawing from its precarious 
position at Bosselbach Farm and did no 
firing. 32 

109th and 110th Infantry Summaries 

There were virtually no changes on 5 
November in dispositions of the 109th 
Infantry. Engineers cleared a path 
through the mine field facing the 2d 
Battalion along the Huertgen-Germeter 
road far enough to enable one company 
to place outposts on the road. {Map 27) 



The enemy made limited counterattacks 
against almost all companies; most of 
them turned out to be patrols in force, 
and all were beaten off. During the 
night the regiment carried out its wound- 
ed and brought up supplies. The carry- 
ing parties had to fight their way in and 
out through infiltrating enemy patrols. 33 
To the south in the 110th Infantry 
sector the 1st Battalion company that had 
tried unsuccessfully to clear the east-west 
portion of the Simonskall-Richelskaul 
road the day before was joined by a 
company from the 2d Battalion. The 
two units reduced several pillboxes and 
then attempted to attack due south in 
order to close the gap between the 1st and 
3d Battalions. Their attack was stopped 
when they lost direction and hit the same 
defenses that had been holding up part 



32 28th Div Arty Jnl, 5 Nov 44; V Corps Study, 
Arty Sec; 229th FA Bn AAR, Nov 44; 86th Cml Bn 
AAR, Nov 44. 

33 Combat Interv 77 with 109th personnel; 109th 
Inf S-3 Jnl, 5 Nov 44; 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 5 Nov 44, 



of the 3d Battalion. During the after- 
noon Task Force Lacy, the small group 
formed to defend along the Richelskaul- 
Raffelsbrand road, was moved to the 
gooseneck curve where the Simonskall 
road turned south. When the 3d Bat- 
talion received orders to withdraw for 
commitment with Task Force R to re- 
capture Schmidt, the battalion disen- 
gaged and crossed its line of departure in 
Germeter about 0245 (6 November). 
As daylight approached, it was fighting 
its way down the firebreak paralleling the 
112th's main supply route toward the 
Kali River. 3 * 

Air Support 

Supporting aircraft were over the 
target area as early as 0835 on 5 Novem- 
ber and as late as 1625. It was the most 
favorable day thus far for air support 
in the Schmidt operation. The 474th 
Fighter Group had thirty-six P-38's over 
the area from 0835 to 1015, attacking 
tanks and troops at Schmidt and in the 
Schmidt vicinity. Smoke and dust pre- 
vented observation of results. The P-38's 
also bombed Heimbach and Schleiden, 
southeast of Schmidt, and Strauch, south- 
west of Schmidt. Enemy flak downed 
two of the planes, the first aircraft to be 
lost in support of the 28th Division's 
attack. 

About noon a squadron of P-47's of 
the 365th Group bombed and strafed 
armored vehicles just north of Branden- 
berg, but no results were observed. In 
early afternoon another squadron of the 
365th bombed twelve to fifteen armored 
vehicles in a forest east of the Roer and 
southeast of Nideggen. The squadron 

34 Combat Interv 77 with 110th personnel; 110th 
Inf S-3 Jnl, 5 Nov 44; 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 5 Nov 44. 




MAP 27 



341 



SITUATION AT DAWN 

6 November 1944 




claimed ten vehicles destroyed. The 
same squadron also attacked fifty motor 
transports south of Gemuend and claimed 
eleven destroyed, eight probably de- 
stroyed, and two damaged. In mid- 
afternoon the 365th sent twelve P-47's 
against Schmidt. This squadron claimed 
that all its bombs hit in the center of the 
town and that two motor transports were 
destroyed. The last mission of the day, 
the bombing of Bergstein, was also by 
the 365th. Except for small fires started, 
no results were observed. 35 

The Enemy Situation 

On 5 November the German counter- 
measures lost impetus temporarily. The 
60th Panzer Grenadier Regiment {116th 
Panzer Division) sent only piecemeal at- 
tacks against the 109th Infantry north of 
Germeter. Less determined attacks than 
before were launched against Kommer- 
scheidt by the 1055th Regiment (89th Divi- 
sion) and 16th Panzer Regiment (116th 
Panzer Division). The 1055th Regiment 
made note of the first prisoners it had 
taken in the woods near Schmidt into 
which elements of Companies K and L, 
112th Infantry, had retreated on 4 
November. 

Late in the day elements of the 89th 
Division, 36 pushing up from the southwest, 
and the Reconnaissance Battalion of the 
116th Panzer Division, thrusting down the 
Kali gorge from the northeast, met at the 
Mestrenger Muehle. The Germans had 
established contact through the gorge, 

33 FUSA and IX TAC Sum, 5 Nov 44; V Corps 
Study, G-3 Air Sec; Combat Interv 74 with Howison. 

36 It is indefinite whether these troops of the 89th 
Division were from the 1055th Regiment or the 1056th 
Regiment. Sec MSS # A-905 (Waldenburg), A-89I 
(Gersdorff), and P-032a (Bruns), and Sit Rpts, 5 
Nov, found in OB WEST KTB Anlagen 1 .-10.XI.44. 



342 



THREE BATTLES 



but American accounts indicate that a 
definite line along the river or across the 
American supply route had not been 
formed. 

The Germans claimed gains during 
the day by the 156th Panzer Grenadier 
Regiment (116th Panzer Division) and ele- 
ments of the 60th Panzer Grenadier Regi- 
ment against Vossenack, but American 
reports indicate that such progress was 
confined to moving up in the wooded 
draw north and northeast of the town. 
To the south, elements of the 275th 
Division continued to hold in the Raffels- 
brand area, and elements of the 1056th 
Regiment were committed to the defense 
along the Kail gorge from southwest of 
Simonskall northeast to the Mestrenger 
Muehle. The 272d Volks Grenadier Divi- 
sion, south of the battle area, had been 
continuing its relief of the 89th Division in 
the sector that the 89th had held before 
its commitment in the Schmidt fight. 
By the end of 5 November twenty-nine 
of thirty-four troop trains bringing the 
272d Division from a training area near 
Berlin had been unloaded; the rest of the 
trains arrived the next day. The 272d 
Division assumed responsibility for the 
sector at noon on 5 November. 

Although the German command be- 
lieved that the attacks of the 116th Panzer 
and 89th Infantry Divisions had effected "a 
firm containment" of the American pene- 
tration, they nevertheless on 5 November 
completed establishment of a secondary 
defensive line on the north and northeast 
as an added precaution. This line, 
running from Grosshau through Klein- 
hau to Brandenberg and Bergstein, was 
manned by "fortress troops and emer- 
gency units." 

In the evening of 5 November the 
German commanders readied an attack 



to be launched by the 156th Panzer Grena- 
dier Regiment and elements of the 60th 
Panzer Grenadier Regiment from the woods 
north and northeast of Vossenack against 
the shell-battered defenders of the Vosse- 
nack ridge. The Germans had sought 
to build a road through these woods in 
order that tanks arid assault guns might 
join this attack, but their efforts had 
failed. 37 

Summary for 5 November and 
Night of 5-6 November 

As dawn approached on 6 November, 
the situation in Kommerscheidt was 
relatively stable. The infantry had held 
throughout the preceding day against a 
number of minor German assaults, and 
defenses had been bolstered by addition 
of five tanks (making a total of eight) and 
nine tank destroyers, although one de- 
stroyer had been knocked out during the 
day and one abandoned at the Kommer- 
scheidt woods line, leaving only seven. 
Company B, a heavy machine gun pla- 
toon of Company D, and a rifle platoon 
of Company C, all 112th Infantry, had 
been moved into the Kommerscheidt line. 
Behind the town at the northern woods 
line sat the remainder of Company C, 
112th Infantry, one platoon of Company 
C, 20th Engineers, the forward regimental 
command post, a tank (Captain Hostrup's 
command tank), and two 57-mm. anti- 
tank guns. On the way forward was a 
decimated battalion of the 110th Infan- 
try, and scheduled to join this battalion 
was a company of light tanks and another 

57 MS § A-905 (Waldenburg); ETHINT 56 (Gers- 
dorff and Waldenburg); Sit Rpts and rail movement 
schedules, 1-6 Nov 44, found in OR WEST KTR 
Anlagen 1 -10.XI.44.; 28th Div G-2 Jnl and File, Nov 
44; 89th Division Order of the Dav: Entry, 5 Nov 44, 
found in OR WEST KTB L -30.XI.44. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



343 



tank destroyer platoon which, together 
with tanks and destroyers already in 
Kommerscheidt, were to form Task Force 
R to retake Schmidt. The attack was 
to jump off sometime before noon, 6 
November. 

In the Kali gorge the Germans had 
gained the upper hand. They had in- 
filtrated the main supply route and had 
mined the trail, leaving both the 3d 
Platoon, Company B, 20th Engineers, 
and two squads of the 3d Platoon, Com- 
pany C, 20th Engineers, unaccounted for. 
Company A, 20th Engineers, was still 
virtually intact in a defensive bivouac 
near the entrance of the trail into the 
woods southeast of Vossenack. A four- 
man security guard was presumably still 
at the Kail bridge, but for all practical 
purposes the enemy controlled the vital 
river bridge. The combined lst-3d 
Battalion, 112th Infantry, aid station 
still functioned in the log dugout in the 
Kali gorge, although the Germans were 
all over the area. No vehicle that had 
tried to use the supply route since about 
0200 (6 November) had been able to get 
through, not even medical jeeps and 
weasels. The 28th Division's G-2 Peri- 
odic Report for 5 November, in making 
estimates of enemy capabilities, had failed 
to mention the possibility of such enemy 
action coming down either end of the 
undefended Kali gorge. 

At Vossenack the situation was perhaps 
worst of all, though its seriousness was 
perhaps not so readily apparent. Rem- 
nants of the 2d Battalion, 112th Infantry, 
still held the town, but they had been 
subjected to three days and four nights 
of murderous fire from German artillery, 



self-propelled guns, and mortars. The 
men had undergone about all they could 
stand. The company commanders knew 
the situation in Vossenack, and the bat- 
talion staff knew it (the staff had a com- 
bat exhaustion case of its own in its 
battalion commander); but neither regi- 
ment nor division seemed to appreciate 
the situation fully. 

One tank platoon of Company B, 707th 
Tank Battalion, Lieutenant Anderson's, 
was moving onto the Vossenack ridge as 
dawn came. Lieutenant Quarrie's tank 
platoon of Company C, 707th, and Lieu- 
tenant Davis' platoon of Company B, 
893d Tank Destroyer Battalion, were al- 
ready there. Also in Vossenack were 
two platoons of Company B, 20th En- 
gineers, and three 57-mm. antitank guns. 

The situation of the 109th and 110th 
Infantry Regiments (except for assign- 
ment of the 3d Battalion, 110th, to Task 
Force R) remained basically the same. 
The important development as dawn 
came on 6 November was still in the 
112th Infantry sector, for there the in- 
fantrymen of the 2d Battalion on the 
forward nose of Vossenack ridge were 
leaving their holes. At the same time 
the Germans were planning a dawn at- 
tack against them. 

The 28th Division's activities on this 
date had not lacked supervision from 
higher commanders. The V Corps com- 
mander and later the First Army, V 
Corps, and VII Corps commanders had 
visited General Cota early on 5 Novem- 
ber. No instructions from these officers 
were recorded. 38 



« 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 5 Nov 44. 



CHAPTER V 



Action at Vossenack 

(6 November) 



On the Vossenack ridge the harassed 
company commanders of the 2d Bat- 
talion, 112th Infantry, their men un- 
nerved by three days and four nights of 
intense enemy shelling, were apprehen- 
sive of what dawn would bring on 6 
November. As daylight came the men 
of Company G, in the most exposed 
positions of all on the northern portion 
of the ridge [Map Xf) became suspicious 
of a strange silence. The Germans had 
been showering them every morning be- 
fore dawn with a concentrated artillery 
barrage, and today there was no fire. 
The mysterious portent of the quiet made 
some of the riflemen almost yearn for the 
usual shelling. They knew that their 
comrades in other units were as nerve- 
shattered as they were themselves, and 
they knew also that a gap of over a 
hundred undefended yards separated 
them from Company F. In ones and 
twos and threes some Company G troops 
had been sneaking back into town during 
the darkness. 

There was a burst of small arms fire. 
One of the men let go a piercing scream; 
then again everything was quiet. About 
thirty minutes later, as daylight increased, 
German guns spoke, and artillery shells 
plummeted in upon the shell-punctured 
nose of the ridge. Small arms fire, 
whether from the distance or from near 



by the Americans could not tell in the 
confusion, joined in. The men of Com- 
pany G had enough. Panic-ridden, 
many of them suddenly grabbed wildly 
at their equipment and broke for the 
rear. Word spread quickly that the 
Germans were attacking and the com- 
pany could not hold. Those who held 
initially saw others running back toward 
town, and they too fled. The disorderly 
retreat became a snowball, carrying with 
it any who chanced to be in its path. 

The Company F commander, Lieu- 
tenant Kauffman, witnessed the retreat 
from his own command post in a building 
near the eastern edge of town and im- 
mediately realized that it endangered 
the situation of his own unit. His pla- 
toons on the right of Company G were 
receiving small arms fire from the wooded 
draws to the front and he feared that 
with the defection of Company G his 
men might be wiped out or captured. 
There could be no doubt that the Com- 
pany G position had collapsed. Kauff- 
man ordered his platoon leaders to with- 
draw their men to the line of buildings 
and there to hold. The platoons began 
to withdraw in small groups, but there 
was no control. The mushrooming effect 
of the retreat had spread too quickly, and 
the men could not be stopped when they 
reached the houses. Although no one 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



345 



professed to have seen any enemy sol- 
diers, 1 the troops of both Company G 
and Company F were convinced the 
Germans were attacking. 

In the Company E command post, 
farther to the west in Vossenack, Pfc. 
Russell G. Ogborn had been operating 
the company SCR 300, forming a relay 
between the battalion command post and 
Company G. The latter unit's radio 
would not reach battalion. Ogborn heard 
the Company G commander, Capt. 
George N. Prestridge, report that the 
enemy was attacking and that his com- 
pany was withdrawing. A few minutes 
later the Company F commander broke 
in on the channel to say that Company 
F, too, was pulling out. 

The Company E command group 
rushed outside its cellar command post. 
Coming down the road from the east 
were panicky men from all four com- 
panies of the battalion, pushing, shoving, 
throwing away equipment, trying madly 
to outrace the enemy artillery fire and 
each other down the main street. Some 
were helping the slightly wounded to run, 
but when the more seriously wounded 
collapsed they were left where they had 
fallen. Although the Company E offi- 
cers tried to question the men in their 
flight, they could discern only one co- 
herent fact: withdrawal. 

At his 2d Platoon command post, 
Lieutenant Barrilleaux, the Company E 
commander, located Lieutenant Kauff- 
man. The two officers could reach only 
one decision, that with everyone pulling 
back it would be useless to try to hold. 
Lieutenant Barrilleaux sent messengers 
to his other platoons telling them to 
withdraw. 

1 For a discus sion of this question see below, pp. 



The machine gunners of Company H, 
who had been with the rifle companies, 
attempted to cover the withdrawal of the 
riflemen and then joined the flight them- 
selves. When the company commander, 
Capt. Charles L. Crain, realized the 
ubiquitous nature of the withdrawal, he 
ordered his 81 -mm. mortar men to move 
back also. Artillery fire hit the mortar 
men as they started out, causing a num- 
ber of personnel casualties and the loss 
of four mortars. 

German soldiers still had not appeared. 
Sergeant Cascarano, whose squad had 
defended a draw on the northeast in the 
Company F sector, said he saw no enemy 
soldiers at all. Lieutenant Condon, the 
Company E executive officer, said it was 
his opinion that there was either no 
enemy attack or one too small to have 
caused such a rout. The men, Lieu- 
tenant Condon thought, had simply 
reached the limits of endurance. 2 

Armor in Vossenack 

When the rout of the 2d Battalion, 
112th Infantry, from the Vossenack nose 
began, available armor in the town con- 
sisted of the 1st Platoon, Company C, 
707th Tank Battalion, whose tanks were 
under Lieutenant Quarrie with Company 
F on the northeast, and the 1st Platoon, 
Company B, 893d Tank Destroyer Bat- 
talion, whose destroyers were under 
Lieutenant Davis on the eastern edge of 
town. Arriving at just about the time 
the attack supposedly hit was the 1st 
Platoon, Company B, 707th Tank Bat- 
talion, under Lieutenant Anderson. This 



2 Combat Interv 75 with Johnson, Kauffman, 
Barrilleaux, Condon, Crain, Philpot, Cascarano, 
Beggs, Pruden, Nesbitt; Combat Interv 76 with 
Davis-Murphy-Gardner. 



346 



THREE BATTLES 



unit had come up on the north side of 
town into the Company G positions and 
was under orders to relieve Lieutenant 
Quarrie's platoon. 

Word of the supposed German attack 
reached Captain Granger, Company B, 
707 th, commander, in Ger meter soon 
after the retreat began. He started for- 
ward in his command tank and was 
followed some fifteen to thirty minutes 
later by his company's 3d Platoon. The 
remaining two platoons of Company C, 
707th, consisting now of about six or 
seven tanks, including one taken over by 
Captain West as his command tank, 
started forward shortly after Captain 
Granger. The remaining platoon of 
tank destroyers, the 3d, and the remain- 
ing tank platoon of Company B, 707th, 
the 2d, stayed in ready positions near 
Germeter. Thus, one full-strength pla- 
toon of tank destroyers and five platoons 
of tanks (less about five vehicles) were 
either in Vossenack when the infantry 
retreat began or became available shortly 
thereafter. 

When the infantry began to fall back, 
Lieutenant Davis' tank destroyer crew- 
men questioned a number of the fleeing 
men but could determine only that there 
were no more men left in the line. The 
tank destroyers remained in position for 
approximately thirty minutes after the 
retreat began; their crews saw no enemy 
attack materialize nor any enemy attempt 
to occupy the abandoned 112th Infantry 
positions. Lacking infantry for protec- 
tion, Lieutenant Davis received permis- 
sion to withdraw his platoon from 
Vossenack to positions west of the town. 
It moved out shortly after 0815, thus 
leaving no tank destroyers in the town. 

On the northeastern nose of the ridge, 
Lieutenant Quarrie's tank platoon of 



Company C, 707th Tank Battalion, knew 
little about the situation except that 
everything was suddenly confusion. Lieu- 
tenant Anderson's tanks fired as they 
approached and thus added to the tur- 
moil. Quarrie's men felt that this fire 
was wild and at random. The two pla- 
toons nevertheless exchanged positions 
and Quarrie's platoon, except for Ser- 
geant McGraw's tank, which had backed 
into a shell hole, withdrew to Germeter. 
Unable to move his tank, Sergeant 
McGraw radioed Captain West and was 
told to have Lieutenant Anderson's pla- 
toon take his crew back to Germeter. 
Anderson evidently interpreted this mes- 
sage to mean that his entire platoon was 
to take McGraw's crew back. He placed 
one man from the crew in each of his 
tanks and began withdrawing slowly, 
firing occasionally in withdrawal at gun 
flashes on the Brandenburg-Bergstein 
ridge. 

As this withdrawal took place, Captain 
West, arriving in his command tank, 
drove up beside Lieutenant Anderson's 
tank and shouted: "You shot your own 
infantry in the back, and now you're 
running off and leaving them." West 
ordered Anderson's tanks back to the 
nose of the ridge, accompanying them 
himself. When they approached the 
initial positions, heavy enemy artillery 
and mortar fire seemed to register directly 
on them, and there were no infantry, 
friendly or enemy, in sight. Captain 
West turned his tank around and yelled 
to Lieutenant Anderson: "Let's get the 
hell out of here." 

The next tanks to move forward to 
Vossenack in answer to the message of 
enemy attack were those of Captain 
Granger, Company B, 707th, and his 3d 
Platoon under 2d Lt. Danforth A. Sher- 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



347 



man. Lieutenant Sherman's tank de- 
veloped a hydrostatic lock at the start 
and would not budge. The platoon 
leader joined another crew and the re- 
maining five tanks moved to the Vosse- 
nack church, then continued east via a 
route south of the town. Arriving in the 
eastern end of the town, the crewmen 
saw three or four tanks of Company C 
(evidently those of Lieutenant Quarrie 
which had been relieved by Lieutenant 
Anderson) withdrawing west along the 
north side of town; but they could see 
no infantry. Captain Granger now re- 
ceived a request by radio from Lieutenant 
Anderson for permission to move back to 
Germeter with some wounded and with 
the crew of Sergeant McGraw's disabled 
Company C tank. The captain ap- 
proved and Anderson's tanks started back 
(probably in the movement to which 
Captain West objected). Granger saw 
Anderson's platoon making its with- 
drawal, drove up to West's tank, and 
asked the situation. Standing in the 
turret of his tank, West replied, "Counter- 
attack." Granger could see no signs of 
enemy attack other than heavy mortar 
and artillery fire. Just at that moment 
a heavy shell came in close, and Captain 
Granger ducked. Rising again, he saw 
that the hatches on the turret of Captain 
West's tank were gone and that the 
Company C commander had been in- 
stantly killed. 

As Lieutenant Anderson's platoon con- 
tinued its withdrawal, Lieutenant Sher- 
man's 3d Platoon, Company B, remained 
among the buildings in the eastern end 
of Vossenack, and Captain Granger him- 
self drove into the center of town to 
search for the infantry command post. 
Meanwhile, Company C's understrength 
1st and 3d Platoons had come into town. 



Lieutenant Leming soon withdrew his 
1st Platoon back to Germeter, and the 3d, 
whose commander, Lieutenant Novak, 
still occupied his immobilized tank near 
the Vossenack church, halted in the 
vicinity of the church. Lieutenant Sher- 
man radioed Captain Granger from the 
eastern end of Vossenack that "we're all 
alone out here," and Granger in turn 
radioed Anderson in Germeter to bring 
his platoon back up. Towing Lieuten- 
ant Sherman's disabled tank, Lieutenant 
Anderson brought his platoon forward 
again, moved south of the church, and 
then turned east again to join Lieutenant 
Sherman's platoon. An enemy tank or 
self-propelled gun scored a direct hit on 
one of his tanks, setting it afire. The 
remainder of the platoon continued to 
the east, firing as it progressed. Again 
the Company C tankers still in town felt 
that this fire was indiscriminate and 
claimed it hit among those of the infantry 
who had not reached the church. 

Lieutenant Davis' tank destroyer pla- 
toon, which had withdrawn early from 
Vossenack, received orders at approxi- 
mately 0900 to return to town to act as 
overwatchers for the tanks. Moving 
back in and attempting to find cover, 
one of the destroyers backed into a build- 
ing on the north side of the main street 
and crashed into a cellar. Its gun 
pointed straight into the air like an anti- 
aircraft weapon. The remaining three 
guns withdrew once again to Germeter. 

Thus, by about 1000, when the in- 
fantry had abandoned the eastern half 
of Vossenack, two platoons of Company 

B, 707th (Lieutenant Sherman's and 
Lieutenant Anderson's), were in the 
eastern edge of town. In the vicinity of 
the church was the 3d Platoon, Company 

C, 707th, under Lieutenant Novak, who 



348 



THREE BATTLES 



himself operated from his immobilized 
tank on the southern edge of town. The 
remainder of both Companies B and C 
was in the rear near Germeter, along 
with two platoons of Company B, 893d 
Tank Destroyer Battalion. The other 
platoon of tank destroyers still waited at 
the entrance of the main supply route 
into the Kali woods in its effort to join 
Task Force R in Kommerscheidt. 3 

Engineers in Vossenack 

When Captain Lutz, Company B, 20th 
Engineers, who still had two engineer 
platoons and his company headquarters 
in Vossenack, saw the disorderly infantry 
withdrawal early on 6 November, he sent 
his administrative officer, 2d Lt. Henry 
R. Gray, to the infantry command post 
to determine the situation. Lieutenant 
Gray evidently had not reached the com- 
mand post before he met an infantry 
captain who told him that he and his 
small group of men were the last ones 
around, and they were leaving. 

By this time the engineer battalion 
commander, Colonel Sonnefield, had ar- 
rived at the Company B command post. 
He told Captain Lutz to move his men 
back to Germeter, collect the infantry 
weapons they had left in the rear, and 
then take up a defense in Vossenack. 
Sonnefield also ordered Company A, 
20th Engineers, to pull out of its defenses 
at the entrance of the supply route into 
the Kali woods and return for its heavier 
weapons. 

The situation was chaotic, and as 

3 Armor story is from the following: Combat Interv 
76 with Mays, Ripple, Davis-Murphy-Gardner, 
Leming-Quarrie-Jenkins-Ryan, Granger- Anderson- 
Walling-Cook. Direct quotes accredited to Captain 
West are from Granger-Anderson-Walling-Cook in- 
terview. 



Captain Lutz's engineers left town it 
seemed that they were the last to leave. 
Tanks also were withdrawing. Just out- 
side of Vossenack an artillery shell landed 
near the column and knocked Captain 
Lutz unconscious. When he revived and 
crawled forward to where Lieutenant 
Gray was lying, he found the lieutenant 
dead. 4 

The Situation at Kommerscheidt 

The defenders of Kommerscheidt were 
also having their difficulties on 6 Novem- 
ber. With the coming of dawn came the 
routine thunder of German shelling, and 
through the early morning mist the men 
could see at least three enemy tanks 
moving toward them from Schmidt and 
a large group of German infantry milling 
around on the dominating Schmidt hill. 
Radio appeals for artillery fire brought 
what many felt to be their most effective 
artillery support of the period, preventing 
the German infantry from joining the big 
tanks in the attack. The tanks them- 
selves advanced no farther than the 
northern edge of Schmidt but from there 
poured direct fire into the houses and 
foxholes of Kommerscheidt. On the left 
flank in the Company A positions at least 
seven men were killed by this fire, and 
Company A's 3d Platoon was forced to 
move its command post when tracers set 
fire to the building that housed it. Three 
men from Company L were killed in 
their foxholes by the shelling, and a round 
from one of the tanks tore through the 
Company L command post, wounding 
the first sergeant and killing the company 
commander's runner. 

The tank and tank destroyer support 
in Kommerscheidt occasionally peeked 

4 Combat Interv 75 with Lutz, Sonnefield, Doherty. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



349 



over the shallow defilade provided by 
the northern part of the hill and fired at 
the German tanks, but without noted 
success. Some of the infantrymen felt 
their armor was letting them down, but 
others took into account the dominant 
positions held by the Germans. It was 
clear to almost all that the friendly armor 
was accomplishing at least one thing 
favorable: its presence made the enemy 
infantry seem reluctant to accompany 
their own armor in the attacks. In their 
turn the American infantry showed an 
increasing tendency 'to desert their fox- 
holes unless their armor was up forward. 
A number left their foxholes now, but the 
exodus was stopped before it could 
spread. 

Word passed among those who had 
not heard it during the night that small 
arms fire was originating from the Kail 
valley to their rear — a development that 
meant they were surrounded. In the 
Company C, 112th Infantry, positions at 
the northern woods line the firing in the 
river valley was more apparent, and the 
men feared they would be attacked from 
that direction. 

The enemy tanks soon seemed to tire 
of their target practice, and the situation 
once again settled down to intermittent 
artillery and mortar fire. But this fire 
was enough to keep the riflemen pinned 
to their holes, each man living out his 
personal hell within himself. It was cold 
and wet, and men were forced to dispose 
of excrement in K ration boxes, pieces 
of paper, or handkerchiefs and throw it 
out when the chance came, for it- was 
worth a man's life to be seen. 5 

6 Combat Interv 75 with Ripperdam, Peril, Tyo, 
Toner, Simon, Kudiak, Walter, Quinton-Hausman- 
Kertes-Lockwood-Norton; Combat Interv 76 with 
Hostrup-Fleig-Payne, Pugh; 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 
6 Nov 44. 



Task Force R 

The 3d Battalion, 110th Infantry, 
which was to constitute the main body of 
Task Force R in the attempt to retake 
Schmidt, crossed the Kali River about 
0815. Almost three hours later the 
troops finally arrived at the Company C, 
1 1 2th Infantry, positions along the woods 
line north of Kommerscheidt. They lost 
two officers and fifteen men out of their 
already-reduced ranks to enemy small 
arms and artillery fire as they fought 
their way across the river gorge. Mak- 
ing contact with Colonel Peterson, the 
companies were told to dig in temporarily 
along the woods line. Peterson felt after 
seeing the battered battalion that was to 
be his main striking force that the planned 
attack would in all probability fail; he 
nevertheless fully intended to go through 
with it. 

In order to avoid the exposed open 
ground north of Kommerscheidt, Lt. Col. 
William Tait, the infantry battalion com- 
mander, his S-2, and S. Sgt. Martin J. 
Joyce, intelligence sergeant, chose a route 
along the edge of the woods to the south- 
west and moved on toward the 112th 
battalions in the town. They had reached 
a shallow draw just northwest of Kom- 
merscheidt when enemy riflemen in a 
square patch of woods beyond opened 
fire. Both Colonel Tait and his S-2 
were wounded. The S-2 was unable to 
seek cover because of his wounds, and 
the Germans fired again, killing him with 
a bullet through the head. Only the 
timely intervention of Sgt. Marshall F. 
Pritts's tank destroyer saved Sergeant 
Joyce and the battalion commander, 
whose right arm had been shattered by 
a bullet. As the tank destroyer fired into 
the woods, one German was killed and 



350 



THREE BATTLES 



two others came out with their hands up, 
one of them pointing to the S-2's body 
and whimpering that he had not shot 
that wounded man. 

The tank destroyers of the 2d Platoon, 
Company B, 893d Tank Destroyer Bat- 
talion, which were to supplement the 
armor of Task Force R, had tried to 
secure infantry assistance in moving down 
the Kali trail. Such assistance had been 
refused, and the platoon decided to go 
on alone. Just inside the woods the 
armored troops met a group of engineers 
who told them the road was blocked by 
damaged weasels and mined. The de- 
stroyers pulled back to the edge of the 
woods southeast of Vossenack and waited. 
Company D, 707th Tank Battalion, the 
light tank company which was also to 
join Task Force R, apparently never left 
its defenses with the 28th Reconnaissance 
Troop southwest of the 110th Infantry 
positions. 6 

Tank Demonstration in Kommerscheidt 

About noon the enemy tanks in 
Schmidt resumed their deadly harass- 
ment of the Americans in Kommer- 
scheidt. Again infantrymen began to 
leave their positions. Some men were 
so shaken and unnerved by this time that 
the mere sound of an enemy tank racing 
its motor caused them to run for the rear. 
With more and more infantrymen pulling 
out, the situation was fast becoming criti- 
cal. In an effort to stabilize the situa- 
tion, Colonel Peterson ordered the tanks 
and tank destroyers to take the German 



6 Combat Interv 77 with Capt George H. Rum- 
baugh and Joyce, 3d Bn, 110th Inf; Combat Interv 
76 with Pugh, Ripple, Fuller, Mays, Davis-Murphy- 
Gardner; Combat Interv 75 with Krieder; 707th Tk 
Bn S-3 Jnl, 8 Nov 44; Interv with Col Peterson. 



tanks under fire. In compliance the 1st 
Platoon of tank destroyers and Lieu- 
tenant Fleig's tanks on the right of town 
proposed a maneuver whereby the tanks 
would move up the crest of the hill to 
draw fire from the enemy tanks as the 
destroyers made a flanking movement 
along the woods line to the southwest. 
While the enemy's attention was directed 
at Fleig's tanks, the destroyers were to 
sneak in on his flank. 

Lieutenant Fleig's three tanks moved 
out and almost immediately began to 
draw fire from Schmidt. The tanks re- 
turned the fire, but the tank destroyers 
did not follow. The platoon leader, 
Lieutenant Leonard (whom Captain 
Pugh had thought missing but who had 
turned up later in the command post of 
the 1st Battalion, 112th Infantry, with 
slight wounds), dismounted in the face 
of small arms fire from an enemy pillbox 
and attempted to lead his destroyers into 
position. Still they failed to come up. 
Fleig saw Leonard move back to his 
vehicles and gesture at the gun com- 
manders to follow him; again nothing 
happened. Captain Pugh, the tank de- 
stroyer company commander, said later 
that the destroyers had bellied on the 
hidden stumps of a hedgerow that ran 
across a field to the southwest of the 
town. Lieutenant Fleig withdrew his 
tanks to the slight defilade of the shallow 
draw. The proposed demonstration had 
not gone as planned, but in exchange for 
jammed turrets on two of the American 
tanks one German tank was claimed 
destroyed and the enemy tanks had 
ceased firing. 7 

1 Combat Interv 76 with Pugh, Hostrup-Fleig- 
Payne. For heroic action in the Kommerscheidt 
area during 4-5-6 November, Lieutenant Leonard, 
who was subsequently seriously wounded, was 
awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. 




IMMOBILIZED ARMOR near the beginning of the Kail trail between Vossenack and 
Kommer scheidt. Kommer scheidt is the village on the horizon. 



352 



THREE BATTLES 



Except for continuation of the heavy 
shelling, there was no more German action 
against Kommerscheidt for the day. The 
defenders became more and more con- 
scious of the enemy's excellent observa- 
tion, both from Schmidt and Harscheidt 
to the south and southeast and from 
Brandenberg and Bergstein to the north; 
and enemy shelling was costly. Infantry 
casualties mounted, and two more tanks 
suffered jammed turrets. Only three 
tank destroyers remained fully opera- 
tional. The most seriously hit was Ser- 
geant Wilson's; one of its motors was 
knocked out and the vehicle immobilized. 
Adopting it toward late afternoon as his 
company command post, Captain Pugh 
had the crewmen of his damaged de- 
stroyers dig in near by as riflemen. One 
crewman who had been wounded was 
placed under the destroyer for protection. 
About fifteen minutes later an artillery 
shell landed less than ten feet from the 
rear of the vehicle, killing him. 8 

The Planned Attack on Schmidt 

The late arrival of the 3d Battalion, 
110th Infantry, in the Kommerscheidt 
area ruled out the possibility of launching 
the Task Force R attack against Schmidt 
at the scheduled time, noon of that day. 
Colonel Peterson and the task force com- 
mander, Colonel Ripple, still planned 
the attack, although the infantry com- 
mander, Colonel Tait, was seriously 
wounded, the S-2 was dead, the S-3 had 
been wounded the day before and had 
not even come forward, and the battalion 
itself had less than 300 effectives. And 
only the tanks and tank destroyers then 

* Combat Interv 75 with 1st and 3d Bn, 112th, 
personnel for the period; Combat Interv 76 with 
Pugh, Hostrup-Fleig-Payne. 



in Kommerscheidt could be expected to 
be present as armored support. 

Colonel Peterson issued hasty orders 
about noon and sent the infantry com- 
pany commanders to reconnoiter their 
Kommerscheidt line of departure. There 
the battalion executive officer, Maj. 
Robert C. Reynolds, was wounded in the 
right hand and chest and the Company I 
commander was killed. Such misfortune 
convinced Colonel Peterson that without 
supplies, without armor, and with an 
understrength infantry force, an attack 
on Schmidt was more futile than ever. 
He therefore ordered the 110th Infantry 
battalion to consolidate its positions with 
Company C, 1 1 2th Infantry, thus strength- 
ening the American defense in depth, 
and canceled the attempt to retake 
Schmidt. 

That night Kommerscheidt was quiet 
except for the sound of enemy artillery. 
During lulls in the shelling the fatigued 
riflemen could hear enemy tanks churn- 
ing about to their front. 9 

A New Defense Attempted in Vossenack 

There had never been any order orig- 
inating from headquarters of the 2d Bat- 
talion, 112th Infantry, for the riflemen 
on Vossenack ridge to withdraw; but in 
early morning (6 November) when the 
battalion officers saw men streaming by 
the command post, they knew what must 
have happened. Running into the street, 
they attempted to halt the pell-mell re- 
treat. The few men they managed to 
stop were sent into position on an east- 
west line running generally across the CP 
building about a hundred yards west of 

9 Combat Interv 76 with Ripple; Combat Interv 
75 with Ripperdam, Dana, Kudiak; Combat Interv 
77 with Rumbaugh-Joyce; Interv with Col Peterson. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



353 



the church. But many men continued 
toward the rear, and many of those who 
were stopped resumed their flight as soon 
as the officers had turned their backs. 
The battalion adjutant and Captain 
Pruden, the executive officer who was 
the 2d Battalion's acting commander be- 
cause of the combat exhaustion of Colonel 
Hatzfeld, divided responsibility for the 
line at the main street, each endeavoring 
to build up a line on his side of the street. 

The 2d Platoon, Company E, under 
1st Lt. Clifton W. Beggs, had been among 
the last to leave the eastern half of 
Vossenack. Beggs attempted to build up 
another line near the church. In the 
attempt at least two of his men were 
wounded. Lieutenant Barrilleaux then 
arrived with word that the line was being 
formed near the battalion CP. The pla- 
toon, one of the few groups which had 
maintained any semblance of order and 
command in withdrawal, followed the 
company commander's directions. 

Company H managed to salvage two 
of its .30-caliber machine guns, one with- 
out a water jacket and the other without 
a tripod, and set them up along the CP 
line. Tied in with them was the fire of 
a .50-caliber machine gun still in position 
near by. 

Sergeant Cascarano, along with the 
platoon guide of his Company F platoon, 
held up at the new defensive line. The 
two men occupied the same foxhole until 
an intense German artillery concentra- 
tion hit their area and they looked up to 
see a number of men still running down 
the road to the rear. With the impres- 
sion that everyone was leaving again, 
they joined the retreat, stopping only 
when they reached the battalion rear aid 
station in Germeter where several lieu- 
tenants were trying to form a unified 



group to move back into Vossenack. It 
was night before that group was brought 
back. 

Despite continuous withdrawals of in- 
dividuals and small groups, by about 
1030 a line had been established with 
approximately seventy men, who, for- 
tunately, had retained their weapons. 
No one seemed to have any illusions 
about the solidity of such a defensive 
force, but at least for the time being the 
retreat had been blocked. 

By this time all infantrymen who could 
get out of the eastern end of Vossenack 
had apparently done so. American tanks 
were still there, however. A call for 
artillery support was sent in by someone 
who either thought the armor had left or 
simply ignored it. The first concentra- 
tion of approximately four volleys was 
short, and American shells fell among 
the handful of defenders at the battalion 
CP line. 10 One shell hit a barn in which 
men from Company E's 1st Platoon had 
taken cover with their platoon sergeant, 
T. Sgt. Donald Nelson. Of the group 
one man was killed and three seriously 
wounded. As far as Sergeant Nelson 
knew, only he and one other man were 
left of the platoon and the pair withdrew 
to the Germeter aid station. 

Lieutenant Barrilleaux, Company E 
commander, with a group of his men who 
were taking shelter along the west wall 
of a house in order to avoid the full thrust 
of continuing German artillery fire, was 
thus fully exposed to the short American 
rounds. He rushed inside the battalion 
CP to try to get the firing stopped. Just 
as he stepped back outside another round 



10 Combat Interv 75 with Nelson, Condon, 
Barrilleaux, Nesbitt. Artillery records are too in- 
definite to determine what American unit, if any, 
fired this concentration. 



354 



THREE BATTLES 



exploded near by, killing his company 
first sergeant and wounding the lieuten- 
ant himself in the face and leg. He 
moved back to the Germeter aid station. 

Lieutenant Beggs, Company E, was 
wounded slightly in this firing and also 
reported to the aid station in Germeter. 
There his wounds seemed to him so minor 
alongside of "so much real misery" that 
he decided his place was back with his 
platoon and returned to Vossenack. 

Quick calls to the rear lifted the Ameri- 
can artillery fire after the four volleys. 
The few officers remaining with the bat- 
talion's infantry forces checked their de- 
fenses and found that more men had 
withdrawn and their line was now thinner 
than ever. But the retreat had been 
stopped for the moment, and at noon the 
American infantry still held half the town 
of Vossenack. 11 

Was There a German Attack? 

Armored elements in Vossenack re- 
ported that they had never encountered 
German infantry at any time during early 
morning of 6 November. Many of the 
infantrymen also stated that they felt 
there had been no real enemy attack. 
The impression of attack had been cre- 
ated, however, and that in itself proved 
enough to give half the town to the 
enemy. 

Lieutenant Condon, Company E ex- 
ecutive officer, believed that there was 
no actual German attack; if there was, 
it had not been large enough in itself to 
cause the rout that followed. He ex- 
plained that the Germans shelled the 

11 Infantry story is from the following: Combat 
Interv 75 with Pruden, Nesbitt, Barrilleaux, Condon, 
Beggs, Crain, Cascarano, Nelson, Philpot, KaufTman; 
112th Inf S-3 Jnl, 6 Nov 44; V Corps Study, G-3 
Sec. 



forward nose, then lifted their fire in 
favor of long-range machine gun fire from 
the woods to the east and north. Next, 
as the small arms fire slackened and the 
defenders rose in their holes to meet an 
expected attack, the artillery let loose 
again, causing more casualties. That 
process, the lieutenant said, gave the 
illusion of attack. Major Bodine, divi- 
sion antitank officer, was in Vossenack 
from 1000 to 1300 and said he saw no 
enemy infantry or tanks. The 2d Bat- 
talion men told him they were driven 
from position by artillery and mortar fire. 

Lt. Clyde R. Johnson, the Weapons 
Platoon leader of Company G, insisted 
there was a German attack. When the 
retreat started, he and two other men 
were in a covered hole that had been used 
as the company observation post. As 
they began to climb from the hole, he 
said, a German soldier stepped over the 
cover, yelling something that sounded 
like a command. The three Americans, 
Lieutenant Johnson, Pfc. I. Ortiz, and 
T. Sgt. Kenneth Jones, remained in their 
hole, all the while hearing German 
voices, until about 2000 that night, when 
they ventured out and eventually made 
their way back to Germeter. 

Presence of at least some German in- 
fantry on the extreme nose of the ridge 
was inferred by Lieutenant KaufTman, 
Company F commander. Five of his 
men on the forward nose of the ridge 
were captured, he said, and were kept in 
the house in which his old company 
command post had been located. KaufT- 
man hazarded no guess as to the time of 
their capture. After nightfall, two of 
these men, S. Sgt. George A. Christian 
and Cpl. James Klinginsmith, escaped 
and made their way back to American 
positions. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



355 



That the Germans did eventually fol- 
low the Americans into the eastern half 
of Vossenack was confirmed, for by noon 
German infantrymen were definitely es- 
tablished as far west as the church. But 
that there must have been some time lag 
between the American retreat and the 
German occupation is apparent from the 
tankers. Both Lieutenant Sherman's and 
Lieutenant Anderson's platoons of Com- 
pany B, 707th Tank Battalion, were in 
the eastern edge of Vossenack until at 
least midmorning. It is possible that the 
presence of armor prevented the Germans 
from exploiting the infantry withdrawal. 

German sources indicate that an early 
morning attack (0400) was planned but 
agree generally that the attack was de- 
layed, by failure of either the infantry or 
the artillery to be ready on time. The 
S-2 of the 229th Field Artillery Battalion 
reported that the attack, according to one 
prisoner, jumped off at 0835. Some 
sources say there was "hand-to-hand 
combat" in the town, but presence of 
enemy troops as far west as the church 
cannot be definitely established prior to 
noon. Capture of the first sizable group 
of German prisoners was not reported 
until 1630 in the afternoon. 12 

The Armor Builds Up a Line 

By the time the infantry had built up 
some semblance of a defense along the 
line of the battalion command post, Cap- 



12 Combat Interv 75 with Beggs, Pruden, Condon, 
Johnson, Cascarano, Kauffman; Combat Interv 75 
with Hostrup-Fleig-Payne; Pugh; Granger-Ander- 
son-Walling Cook; Davis-Murphy-Gardner. See 
also 28th Div G-2 Jnl, 6 Nov 44; 28th Div G-3 File, 
6 Nov 44; MS # A-905 ( Waldenburg); MS § C-016 
(Straube); ETHINT 56 (Gersdorffand Waldenburg); 
Sit Rpts, 6 Nov 44, found in OB WEST KTB Anlagen 
L10.XI.44. 



tain Granger, Company B, 707th Tank 
Battalion, located the infantry command 
post. Colonel Hatzfeld, the infantry 
battalion commander, was sitting inside 
with his face in his hands, and Captain 
Pruden, the executive, told Granger what 
he knew of the confused situation. Later 
in the day Hatzfeld reported to the 
Germeter aid station, and Pruden as- 
sumed actual command. 

Soon after Captain Granger's visit to 
the infantry command post, at approxi- 
mately 1100, Lieutenant Sherman ra- 
dioed from the eastern edge of town: 
"Captain, it's getting too hot to handle 
out here. We are just taking fire and 
doing no good." Captain Granger told 
him to withdraw his tanks to the vicinity 
of the church and the battalion CP and 
go into position with Lieutenant Ander- 
son's 1st Platoon, which by this time had 
gradually worked to the rear until it was 
now near the church on the south side 
of town. Also in position in this area 
were Lieutenant Novak's immobilized 
tank and his 3d Platoon, Company C, 
707th Tank Battalion. 

As Lieutenant Sherman was withdraw- 
ing with his tanks along the northern 
route, he saw a column of infantry 
emerging from the woods on the north 
flank almost due north of the infantry CP. 
Since he could not definitely identify the 
column as friendly or enemy, he did not 
open fire. 

Lieutenant Anderson's platoon on the 
right flank was receiving antitank fire 
from the vicinity of Harscheidt on the 
Kommerscheidt-Schmidt ridge. Captain 
Granger made contact with the artillery 
liaison officer at the infantry CP and had 
artillery fire placed on the enemy gun 
flashes. Then he returned to his com- 
mand tank where he heard Sgt Arthur 



356 



THREE BATTLES 



Claugh's tank (in Anderson's platoon) 
open fire with its machine guns on the 
buildings in the eastern end of Vossenack. 
Lieutenant Novak, Company C, opened 
fire at the same time on the woods line 
east of the town. When Captain Granger 
checked to see if Sergeant Claugh was 
sure he was firing at Germans, the ser- 
geant replied: "Hell, yes, I'm* sure," and 
added hastily, "Sir." 

At almost the same time, Lieutenant 
Sherman's tanks arrived from the north 
side of town. Captain Granger directed 
them into position with Lieutenant An- 
derson and Lieutenant Novak. 

At approximately 1140 an infantry 
officer ran to Captain Granger's tank and 
asked for tank support on the north flank. 
Granger moved with his command tank 
some twenty-five yards north of the in- 
fantry CP. Coming up toward the town 
out of the wooded draw to the north were 
fifteen to twenty Germans, evidently the 
same unidentified column seen earlier by 
Lieutenant Sherman. When the com- 
mand tank opened fire, the German in- 
fantry hit the dirt, and Granger's gunner 
put two rounds of high explosive into the 
area where they had fallen. An enemy 
antitank weapon from somewhere in the 
northern draw fired, one round ripping 
the ground directly in front of Granger's 
tank. He returned the fire, and the 
antitank weapon did not fire again. 

Now there were three tank platoons in 
Vossenack, all just south of town and on 
a general line with the infantry defense. 
One tank, Captain Granger's, was just 
north of the infantry CP. It was the 
only tank covering the north side. 13 

In midmorning, after all tank destroy- 
ers had pulled out of Vossenack, General 

13 Combat Interv 76 with Granger-Anderson- 
Walling-Cook. 



Davis made contact with Colonel Mays, 
893d Tank Destroyer Battalion com- 
mander, and asked why there were no 
destroyers in the town. Colonel May's 
explanation that the destroyers had found 
no targets there and did nothing but draw 
enemy fire did not satisfy the general. He 
ordered all of Company B, 893d, back 
into town, asserting that its presence was 
necessary for infantry morale. 14 When 
Major Bodine, the division antitank offi- 
cer, talked with General Davis, the as- 
sistant division commander relaxed his 
requirement, and only one platoon, the 
1st under Lieutenant Davis, was ordered 
back into Vossenack. Davis placed two 
of his guns on the right side of the main 
street west of the church and the third 
on the left to cover the north flank. (The 
fourth gun was the one which had earlier 
fallen into a cellar.) 

A second platoon of destroyers, the 3d, 
moved just east of Germeter, fired on 
reported enemy mortar locations in the 
draw north of Vossenack, and then pulled 
back to the rear of Germeter. One gun 
from this platoon later moved south of 
Vossenack and joined Lieutenant Smith's 
2d Platoon, which still was waiting at the 
entrance of the main supply route into 
the Kail woods in its effort to reach 
Kommerscheidt and join Task Force R. 15 

About 1245, tankers in Vossenack dis- 
played their identification panels while 
American planes strafed the eastern end 
of the town and bombed the draw to the 
northeast. Enemy artillery ceased com- 

14 ". . . many enemy targets of opportunity suitable 
for TD fire were not engaged. A few well-placed 
guns, each with alternate firing positions, could have 
duplicated several times the destruction of enemy 
armor accredited to [the American tank destroyers]." 
Ltr, Gen Davis to Hist Div, 27 Dec 49. 

35 Combat Interv 76 with Mays, Davis-Murphy- 
Gardner. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



357 



pletely as the American planes buzzed 
the area, the first time in the Schmidt 
operation that the presence of American 
aircraft seemed to have any appreciable 
effect in silencing enemy guns. 

After the air strike, the tankers con- 
tinued to fire intermittently at enemy 
personnel in the eastern end of town, at 
the wooded draw to the northeast, and 
at gun flashes on the Branderiberg- 
Bergstein ridge line. About 1615 either 
a German Mark V tank or a self-pro- 
pelled gun fired from the vicinity of 
Mausbach-Froitscheidt and knocked out 
one of Lieutenant Anderson's tanks. Al- 
though Anderson returned the fire, the 
range was too great for his weaker 
American guns. 

At approximately 1800 Lieutenant 
Quarrie came into town with his 3d 
Platoon, Company C, 707th Tank Bat- 
talion, and evidently a portion of Lieu- 
tenant Leming's 1st Platoon, for he had 
six tanks. He relieved Lieutenant An- 
derson's platoon, and all of Company B, 
707th, then withdrew to Germeter. Ex- 
cept for Lieutenant Novak's immobilized 
tank, Novak's Company C platoon also 
withdrew, and Quarrie's reinforced 3d 
Platoon, plus one immobilized tank, re- 
mained as tank support for the defense 
of Vossenack's western half. Also pres- 
ent as darkness came was Lieutenant 
Davis' platoon of Company B, 893d Tank 
Destroyer Battalion. 16 

The Engineers Act as Riflemen 

Major units of the 1171st Engineer 
Combat Group were the 20th, 146 th 

16 Combat Interv 76 with Granger-Anderson-Wal- 
ling-Cook, Leming-Quarrie-Jenkins-Ryan; Combat 
Interv 75 with Condon, Pruden. Although no 
reference to air attack against Vossenack is made in 
IX TAC records, this information is accepted because 
it comes from ground troops who saw the action. 



(minus one company), and 1340th En- 
gineer Combat Battalions. The 146th 
Battalion had been assigned road main- 
tenance work in the rear areas, a task 
which became most formidable because 
of the muddy conditions of the forest 
trails. The other two battalions were in 
direct support of the 112th and 110th 
Infantry Regiments. One company of 
the organic 103d Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion had also been attached to each of 
the three infantry regiments. Engineers 
of the 1171st Group were to be prepared 
at any time upon four hours' notice for 
commitment as riflemen. 

In view of the chaotic situation in 
Vossenack, the three engineer battalions 
Were alerted at various times during the 
morning of 6 November by various com- 
manders, including General Davis and 
Colonel Daley, 1171st Group command- 
er. The first alert came early in the day, 
before Colonel Daley knew that Captain 
Lutz's two platoons had withdrawn from 
Vossenack, when the group commander 
alerted Company C, 1340th Engineers, 
for movement into Vossenack. General 
Davis met the Company C commander, 
Capt. Ralph E. Lind, Jr., about 1100 as 
he was taking his company into a forward 
assembly area 17 near Richelskaul prepar- 
atory to moving to Vossenack. Davis 
ordered the company to go instead to the 
Kail bridge and secure it. He also or- 
dered a platoon of Company A, 20th 
Engineers, which had withdrawn from 
the main supply route on Colonel Sonne- 
field's orders, to accompany it. 

Shortly after issuing these orders, Gen- 
eral Davis apparently changed his mind. 

17 At the time General Davis met these troops 
"they were not moving into assembly areas — they 
were on the road moving away from the action." 
Ltr, Gen Davis to Hist Div, 27 Dec 49. 



358 



THREE BATTLES 




CORDUROY ROAD. Adverse weather conditions required extensive road maintenance 
work by the engineers. 



When he met Colonel Daley and his 
engineer battalion commanders near 
Richelskaul, he told Daley to send Com- 
pany C, 1340th, and those men of the 20th 
Engineers who had withdrawn from 
Vossenack, back into Vossenack to report 
to the infantry commander. After es- 
tablishing that the situation in the town 
was secure, Daley was to take them on 
to recapture the bridge area. Since these 
orders conflicted with the general's pre- 
vious instructions to Captain Lind, the 
1171st S-3 left the meeting early to over- 
take Lind's company. He passed on the 
new order and Company C, 1340th, 
headed for Vossenack about noon. 

When Colonel Daley and the 1340th 



commander, Lt. Col. Truman H. Set- 
liffe, left the meeting, they also overtook 
Company C, 1340th, to accompany it to 
Vossenack. On the way they met Lieu- 
tenant Pellino of Company A, 20th, who 
was leading about thirty men back from 
the Kail trail area. Pellino and his men 
joined the column, thus giving it two 
platoons of Company A, 20th. From 
Pellino Daley learned that there had 
been no enemy action when the lieuten- 
ant had left his defensive bivouac on the 
Kali trail. This information, the colonel 
felt, changed the situation enough to 
warrant letting Company C, 1340th, and 
the two Company A, 20th, platoons con- 
tinue to the bridge before the Germans 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



359 



moved there in force. He could send 
Company B, 1340th, to Vossenack. 
Colonel Setliffe continued with the col- 
umn and Colonel Daley returned to the 
1340th command post at Richelskaul. 
Captain Lind, receiving his third change 
of orders, headed once again for the Kail 
bridge. 

When Colonel Daley reached Richel- 
skaul, he found Company B, 1340th, 
ready to move and awaiting orders. He 
told the company to proceed to Vosse- 
nack and then, after the situation there 
was cleared up, to go to the bridge to 
assist Company C. 

Learning then that the two companies 
of the 146th Engineers were moving into 
an assembly area about 700 yards west 
of Germeter, Colonel Daley gave orders 
there to the battalion's advance party 
to have the battalion move to the edge 
of the Germeter woods with the prospect 
of commitment in Vossenack. He and 
the 146th commander, Lt. Col. Carl J. 
Isley, then headed for Vossenack to re- 
connoiter the situation. 

With the 146th Engineers thus pre- 
paring for commitment in Vossenack, 
Colonel Daley radioed Company B, 
1340th, to bypass the town and move 
directly to the Kali valley to assist Com- 
pany C, 1340th, at the bridge. This 
order completed commitment of all the 
1171st engineers, for the 146th had only 
two companies and Company A, 1340th, 
was engaged in road repair and in oc- 
cupying captured pillboxes in the 110th 
Infantry sector to the south. This com- 
pany was not considered for commitment 
in the 112th Infantry sector at this time 
because the extent of the German opera- 
tion was not known. The enemy might 
also be threatening on the 110th Infantry 
front. 



Colonel Daley and Colonel Isley ar- 
rived in Vossenack to reconnoiter shortly 
after 1300. Daley was wounded slightly 
in the leg by shell fragments — not seri- 
ously enough to require evacuation. The 
two engineer commanders made contact 
at the infantry battalion CP with Captain 
Pruden, fully in command of the rem- 
nants of the 2d Battalion, 112th Infantry, 
since Colonel Hatzfeld's evacuation. Pru- 
den said he had to have relief within 
thirty minutes; he could not be respon- 
sible for holding the hastily contrived line 
any longer than thirty minutes with his 
demoralized force, now reduced to about 
forty men plus the tank support. Enemy 
infantry were in full contact. When 
Colonel Isley said it would take at least 
one and a half hours to get his men 
forward, Captain Pruden asked him to 
hurry, saying he would hang on as best 
he could. 18 

After Colonel Daley and Colonel Isley 
had gone into Vossenack, General Davis 
came upon Company A, 1 46th Engineers, 
moving into its assembly area where it 
had been directed by Colonel Isley to 
await further orders. With the company 
was Maj. Willard B. Baker, 146th S-3, 
who said General Davis told him: "Go 
in. Drive the enemy out of the town. 
Move. Get going." 19 



18 Story of engineer commitment is from the follow- 
ing: Combat Interv 75 with Daley, Pruden, Isley, 
Capt Thomas F. Creegan and 1st Lt Lumir T. 
Makousky, 1340th Engrs, and 1st Lt Clarence White, 
20th Engrs; Lt Col Truman H. Setliffe, Rpt of Opns 
of CO, 1340th Engrs (hereafter cited as Setliffe Rpt); 
Sonnefield Rpt; Statement, Maj John G. Auld, Ex 
Off, L 340th Engrs, to Hist Off (hereafter cited as 
Auld Statement); Maj Robert L. Argus, S-3, 1171st 
Engr (C) Gp, notes on operations of 6 Nov 44 
(hereafter cited as Argus Notes); Ltr, Col Daley to 
Hist Div. 

19 Combat Interv 75 with Baker. 



360 



THREE BATTLES 



Many of the men were still wearing 
their hip boots from road work and the 
commanders knew nothing of the Vos- 
senack situation. The company com- 
mander, Capt. Sam H. Ball, Jr., issued 
instructions to his platoon leaders as they 
moved forward. He sent out several men 
as a point and told his 1st Platoon under 
1st Lt. William J. Kehaly to take the 
right (south) side of Vossenack's main 
street, his 2d, Platoon under 1st Lt. 
Kenneth J. Shively to take the left 
(north), and his 3d Platoon under 1st Lt. 
William A. Anderson to be in support. 
Advancing in a column of platoons, one 
file on either side of the Germeter- 
Vossenack road, the company entered 
the western edge of Vossenack and Cap- 
tain Ball directed the lead platoons to 
continue to the church and assume de- 
fensive positions. He himself reported 
to the command post of the 2d Battalion, 
112th Infantry, with Colonel Daley, 
Colonel Isley, and Captain Pruden. Be- 
cause of General Davis' orders and the 
lack of preliminaries, troops were getting 
into town in less than the infantry cap- 
tain's requested half-hour. 

As the 1st and 2d Platoons passed the 
infantry CP, they began to receive haras- 
sing rifle fire from the eastern end of 
Vossenack. Pvt. Doyle W. McDaniel 
climbed atop a shed roof on the north 
side of the street in an effort to locate this 
fire; he jumped down again and landed 
almost on top of a German, whom he 
shot. When his platoon reached the 
crossroads at the church, McDaniel 
climbed another building in another at- 
tempt to spot the enemy riflemen, only 
to be seen first himself and killed. 

The 1st Platoon on the right (south), 
using "run and duck" tactics which in- 
volved advancing in short rushes singly 



or in pairs, reached the crossroads and 
captured the church, taking eight or ten 
German prisoners at the cost of approxi- 
mately five engineers wounded. Other 
men of the platoon took a building on the 
right of the church. By nightfall the com- 
pany had established itself completely in 
everything west of the church. It held 
the church as well, one house beside it 
on the south, and three houses on the 
west side of the street leading from the 
church toward the Kail gorge. 20 

Company C, 146th Engineers, fol- 
lowed Company A into Vossenack just 
before dusk. Capt. Vincent L. Wall, 
the company commander, was directed 
to take over defense of the north side of 
the main street, leaving Company A free 
to defend the south side. Captain Wall 
and the battalion S-3, Major Baker, 
went forward to reconnoiter after dark- 
ness had already come. As they at- 
tempted to go around the eastern side 
of the church, a German threw a hand 
grenade at them, wounding Captain 
Wall. Both officers pretended to be 
dead until a German rose up, evidently 
to determine the effect of the grenade, 
and in so doing silhouetted himself. Ris- 
ing quickly to one knee, Captain Wall 
shot the German with his carbine, and 
the two officers ran back around the 
corner of the church. 

Because of his wounds, Wall turned 
his company over to 1st Lt. Richard R. 
Schindler, who then established the 
Company C platoons in the buildings on 
the north side of the street — in the order 
1st, 2d, 3d — from east to west. All pla- 



20 One of the German prisoners captured in Vosse- 
nack said his company commander had tried 
desperately to determine the identity of these new- 
type American troops who wore this new-type 
equipment — the hip boots. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



361 



toons of Company A then shifted to the 
south side of the street. 21 

Meanwhile about thirty-five men of 
Company B, 20th Engineers, who had 
withdrawn that morning from Vossenack 
upon Captain Lutz's order, had been as- 
sembled near Germeter and were ordered 
by General Davis to assist the Vossenack 
defense. Tying in with the defense of 
the 1 46th Engineers, they went into posi- 
tion south of Vossenack and west of the 
crossroads where a wooded draw pointed 
finger-like toward the town from the 
south. 

After the arrival of Company A, 146th 
Engineers, in Vossenack, Colonel Daley 
had continued back toward Germeter, 
met General Davis, and explained the 
disposition of his command. When Gen- 
eral Davis objected to the decision to 
send the two companies of the 1340th 
Engineers to the bridge area before rein- 
forcing Vossenack, Colonel Daley radioed 
the 1340th column to turn back. But, 
he discovered, Company C, 1340th, had 
already reached the bridge. He then 
ordered Colonel Setliffe, the battalion 
commander, to leave whatever force he 
felt was necessary to hold the bridge and 
return the remainder of the two com- 
panies to Vossenack. Setliffe decided 
that all of Company C was necessary to 
hold the bridge. 

Colonel Daley next telephoned Gen- 
eral Cota and reported the situation. 
General Cota directed the 1171st com- 
mander to take command of all troops 
in Vossenack and to assume responsi- 
bility for defense of the town. Since the 
1340th Engineers seemed to have control 

sl Story of 146th Engrs is from the following: Com- 
bat Interv 75 with Isley, Baker, and Ball; Capt Ball, 
Rpt of Action of Co A, 146th Engrs, in Vossenack 
(hereafter cited as Ball Rpt), Combat Interv File 75. 



of the bridge area and the 146th seemed 
adequate for the defense of Vossenack, 
Colonel Daley set up two command 
groups, one under Colonel Isley control- 
ling all troops in Vossenack and one 
under Colonel Setliffe controlling all in 
the bridge and Kali trail area. 22 

The 1340th column had moved out 
about noon for the Kail valley. The two 
platoons of Company A, 20th Engineers, 
dropped off at their former defensive 
bivouac at the entrance of the main sup- 
ply route into the gorge. Company B, 
1340th, had started out somewhat later 
than Company C, and reached only the 
Company A, 20th, positions when Colo- 
nel Daley's radio message instructed it to 
go back to Vossenack. While the men of 
the company dug in near Company A, 
20th, their commanders went to Vosse- 
nack and talked with Colonel Isley, who 
now was in over-all command of troops 
in the town. Even though the positions 
now being occupied by Company B, 
1340th, were not very satisfactory, it was 
decided that the men should remain in 
them rather than find new ones in the 
dark. Next day offered the possibility 
of improvement. 

In the meantime Company C, 1340th, 
with approximately ninety-two men and 
five officers, had reached the Kali bridge 
without fighting and was in a defensive 
position by about 1830. The 3d Platoon 
under 2d Lt. Jack H. Baughn and one 
squad of the 1st Platoon crossed the 
bridge and dug in east of the river; the 
2d Platoon on the west bank dug in near 
the bridge and the Kail trail, facing gen- 



M Combat Interv 75 with Lutz, Isley, Daley; 
Sonnefield Statement; Setliffe Rpt; Col Isley, Notes 
on Opns of the 146th Engrs in recapture and defense 
of Vossenack (hereafter cited as Isley Notes); Ltr, 
Col Daley to Hist Div. 



362 



THREE BATTLES 



erally northeast in a platoon perimeter 
defense. The remaining two squads of 
the 1st Platoon dug in south of the 2d 
but still north of the bridge, facing gen- 
erally south and southwest. The com- 
pany had six machine guns, nine ba- 
zookas, and its usual complement of M-l 
rifles. 

Thus, despite initial confusion and con- 
tradictory orders, the engineers had by 
nightfall established themselves in defense 
as riflemen. In Vossenack were Com- 
panies A and C, 146th Engineers. Rem- 
nants of the 2d Battalion, 112th Infantry 
— some forty men — provided local secur- 
ity for what became a combined infantry- 
engineer command post. A few strag- 
glers in Germeter were organized into a 
platoon and moved up after dark. 23 At 
the Kail bridge was Company C, 1340th 
Engineers. At the entrance of the Kali 
trail into the woods southeast of Vosse- 
nack two platoons of Company A, 20th, 
and all of Company B, 1340th, were de- 
ployed. Farther west and south of 
Vossenack along the woods line approxi- 
mately two platoons of Company B, 20th, 
were in position. 

Still beyond the river and tied in with 
Company C, 112th Infantry, was one 
platoon of Company C, 20th Engineers, 
as well as the company's headquarters 
group. One squad of this company still 
guarded a rear explosive dump near 
Germeter, one platoon was on mine- 
clearing duty with the 109th Infantry, 
and two squads had been decimated the 
preceding night by German infiltration 
in the Kali gorge. One platoon of Com- 
pany B, 20th, had also been lost in the 
Kali action. Company B, 146th, was 
on detached service with the 102d Cav- 



Combat Interv 75 with Pruden, Ncsbitt. 



airy Group, and Company A, 1340th, 
was still working with the 1 10th Infantry, 
although its company commander had 
been warned during the afternoon that 
his company might be pulled out at any 
moment to join the other engineers in 
the Kali gorge or at Vossenack. 24 

The Command Level 

Throughout the morning of 6 Novem- 
ber 28th Division headquarters seemed 
to be aware of the withdrawal of the 2d 
Battalion, 112th Infantry, from Vosse- 
nack but failed to appreciate the with- 
drawal as the rout it actually was. 
Orders were given early that armored 
units be utilized fully to stabilize the 
situation. At 1130 General Cota in- 
structed General Davis to secure both 
the Kail trail and Vossenack and to use 
the engineers, if necessary, as riflemen. 
General Davis had been on the scene all 
morning, at least since about 0830, and 
acted either before receiving these orders 
or immediately thereafter. 25 

Throughout the entire Schmidt opera- 
tion, V Corps had kept in close contact 
with division headquarters, often by tele- 
phone conversations between the V Corps 
commander and General Cota. In the 
light of what division recorded in its 
journals, however, little accurate in- 
formation was available to pass on to 
corps. The division's G-3 Periodic 
Reports, from which much of the corps 
estimate of the situation could be ex- 
pected to be gleaned, seemed designed to 
soften the effect of the various reverses. 

24 Combat Interv 75 with White, Daley, Bane, 
Makousky, Doherty, Islcy, Crecgan, S Sgt Benjamin 
A. P. Cipra, Jr., Co C, L340th Engrs; Sonnefield 
Statement. 

" 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 6 Nov 44; Combat Interv 76 
with Cole. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



363 



On 6 November, for example, when tell- 
ing of the rout of the 2d Battalion, 112th 
Infantry, the G-3 Periodic Report stated: 
"2d Battalion received very heavy and 
concentrated artillery fire, withdrew to 
reorganize and then regained their origi- 
nal position." Actually the 2d Battalion 
had been routed, recovered none of the 
ground it had lost, and had been de- 
stroyed as a fighting unit. 26 

The Night in Vossenack: Armor 

Armored elements in Vossenack after 
dark consisted of a composite platoon of 
six tanks under Lieutenant Quarrie, 
Company C, 707th Tank Battalion; 
Lieutenant Novak's immobilized tank; 
and a platoon of tank destroyers under 
Lieutenant Davis, Company B, 893d 
Tank Destroyer Battalion. At approxi- 
mately 2000 General Davis and Captain 
Granger, Company B, 707th, checked 
the positions of Lieutenant Quarrie' s pla- 
toon. Sometime during the night Sgt. 
John B. Cook, Company B, 707th, went 
into Vossenack and drove out a tank that 
had been damaged that afternoon by 
artillery fire and temporarily abandoned 
by his unit. 

Lieutenant Quarrie asked Colonel 
Isley, now in command in Vossenack, 
for either infantry or engineers to out- 
post his tanks, and a lieutenant and ten 
to twelve men from Company B, 20th 
Engineers, were designated for the job. 
They dug in underneath each tank, and 
the engineer lieutenant entered Lieu- 
tenant Quarrie's tank. About 0300 it 
received a mortar or artillery hit on the 
turret, another tank was hit on the engine 
compartment, and the engineer guards 

"28th Div G-3 Jnl, 2-9 Nov 44; 28th Div G-3 
Periodic Rpt, 6 Nov 44. 



left. The engineer lieutenant left Quar- 
rie's tank, ostensibly to make an inspec- 
tion of his men, but did not return, 

Quarrie was called to the infantry- 
engineer CP about 0500 to give recom- 
mendations on employing his tanks the 
next morning to help retake the eastern 
end of town. He told the planners that 
his platoon was to be relieved at daylight 
by a platoon of Company B, 707th. Be- 
cause of exposure to enemy fire from the 
Brandenberg-Bergstein ridge, he advised 
against using tanks on the north. 

The 2d Platoon, Company B, 893d 
Tank Destroyer Battalion, reinforced by 
one destroyer from the 3d, had waited 
through the afternoon at the entrance 
to the Kali valley for word that the sup- 
ply route was reopened. At dusk the 
platoon withdrew to Germeter to refuel 
and await further instructions. Lieu- 
tenant Davis' 1st Platoon remained all 
night in Vossenack. 27 

The Night in Vossenack: Engineers 

When General Davis visited his infan- 
try-engineer CP in Vossenack at 2100, 
Colonel Isley explained to him the dis- 
position of his troops. General Davis 
reminded the engineer commander that 
his mission in Vossenack was to defend 
the supply route running through the 
town and that he couldn't defend a sup- 
ply route by sitting on it. Indicating 
generally on a map with a sweeping mo- 
tion of his finger the ground just south- 
east of the eastern edge of the town, the 
general ordered Isley to put a company 
"out here." Captain Pruden pointed 
out that this was the area where his in- 

27 Combat Interv 76 with Davis-Murphy-Gardncr, 
Granger- Anderson-Walling-Cook, Leming-Quarrie- 
Jenktns-Ryan, Fuller; Combat Interv 75 with Isley. 



364 



THREE BATTLES 



fantry had found the positions so exposed 
that they proved untenable. The gen- 
eral said the engineers could choose their 
own exact locations but they had to put 
someone in the vicinity he had indicated. 

To carry out these instructions, Colonel 
Isley ordered Company C, 146th Engi- 
neers, to take over the defense of both 
sides of the Vossenack street. Then Com- 
pany A, 146th, guided by two infantry 
sergeants who had been in the forward 
eastern position, was to move to the area 
indicated. In compliance, Lieutenant 
Schindler, Company C commander since 
Captain Wall had been wounded, sent 
his 3d Platoon to take over the eastern- 
most defenses of Company A. 

Before Company A moved out on its 
new mission, Lt. Col. James F. White, 
executive officer of the engineer group, 
arrived at the infantry-engineer CP and 
gave instructions for the next day. At 
daylight the 146th was to clear the eastern 
end of Vossenack and then defend the 
northern flank of the town. Company B, 
1340th, the remaining elements of Com- 
pany A, 20th, and the two platoons of 
Company B, 20th, were to move up after 
the town was cleared and defend the 
south flank, and tanks were to be placed 
at the eastern nose of the town. 

Despite this announcement of plans for 
the next day, Colonel Isley felt that Gen- 
eral Davis' instructions to occupy the 
exposed nose of the ridge still had to be 
executed. Thus, Company A and its 
two infantry guides moved out about 
231 5. 28 In a tightly closed single-file 
column because of the darkness, the Com- 



59 Combat Interv 75 with Isley, White, Baker- 
Ball, and 1st Lt Bernard E. Meier, Co C, 146th 
Engrs; Lt Meier, chronological acct of events in 
Vossenack (hereafter cited as Meier Acct), Combat 
Interv File 75, 



pany A engineers moved to the south of 
Vossenack for about 400 yards to avoid 
the light from burning buildings near the 
church, and then turned east. The com- 
pany had passed Vossenack's second main 
north-south street when Captain Ball, 
the company commander, discovered 
that the infantry guides did not know 
where their former positions were. They 
were lost. The company halted as Lieu- 
tenant Kehaly, the 1st Platoon leader, 
and one of the guides moved ahead in 
an effort to find the positions. They re- 
turned in about fifteen minutes without 
having succeeded. Thinking they had 
gone too far to the east, Captain Ball 
pulled the company back to within about 
twenty yards of a promontory of houses 
alongside the second main north-south 
street and again sent Lieutenant Kehaly 
and the guide to search for the positions. 

The lieutenant and the guide had gone 
no more than forty feet when Captain 
Ball at the head of the waiting column 
caught sight of a man squatting in a 
field not far away. As the man stood 
up and fastened his trousers, Captain 
Ball told the soldier beside him to call 
out to him. The man said something in 
reply — Captain Ball thought it was in 
German — turned, and ran. When Cap- 
tain Ball fired, the man fell and lay moan- 
ing. Ball noticed another man moving 
alongside a hedge near the first houses; 
a shot from another American rifle rang 
out, and there was no further sound 
from the hedge. 

Seeking to avoid what must be enemy 
positions in the houses, the captain passed 
word down his line of men to withdraw 
about 200 yards down the slope to the 
southeast. As they did so, about four 
burp guns opened fire, but the shooting 
was high and the convex contour of the 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



365 



slope provided protection. Then the 
Germans fired flares, the first coming 
from the promontory of buildings near 
which the Americans had seen the two 
Germans. Other flares, accompanied by 
sporadic machine gun fire, rose from the 
Kail woods to the south. Still others shot 
up from the west near the church, giving 
the impression that the Company A 
engineers were surrounded. 

Lieutenant Kehaly and the infantry 
guide had rejoined the company. Call- 
ing a conference of his platoon leaders, 
Captain Ball concluded that, without 
being able to find the old infantry posi- 
tions, his troops could not accomplish 
their mission and should return to the 
western end of town. The Germans ob- 
viously knew they were on the ridge now 
and would be alert for any new move. 

With Lieutenant Kehaly and Captain 
Ball leading, the men moved farther 
toward the draw to the south in order to 
avoid detection from Vossenack. They 
reached a point a few yards south of a 
road fork which formed the supply trail 
and spotted two Germans who appeared 
to be laying mines. The Americans 
yelled at them, just to make sure they 
were Germans, and then fired. The Ger- 
mans took flight and disappeared into a 
slight dip in the trail. Tossing a grenade 
toward the dip, and then another, Lieu- 
tenant Kehaly and Captain Ball rolled 
over to where they could see into the 
depression. They saw only one German 
walking unconcernedly up the trail 
toward Vossenack. Captain Ball fired 
at him and the German fell. 

As sleet and rain began to make the 
cold night even more uncomfortable, the 
column started forward again. When 
Captain Ball passed the fallen German, 
he glanced back just in time to see that 



the German was not dead and seemed to 
be preparing to shoot. Both Captain 
Ball and his runner fired again. This 
time the German lay still. 

Returning with his company to the 
western end of Vossenack, Captain Ball 
reported to Colonel Isley and was told 
that new plans were being readied for 
an attack in early morning. It was then 
about 0300, and the engineer company 
took cover in the battered houses west of 
the command post. 29 

When Company C, 1 46th Engineers, 
had relieved Company A in its defense 
of Vossenack to allow the flanking move- 
ment, the 3d Platoon under 1st Lt. 
Charles F. Rollins, Jr., had taken over 
the defense of the church and the Com- 
pany A positions. About 0200 a machine 
gun position of this platoon slightly 
southwest of the church was hit by a Ger- 
man hand grenade, and the machine 
gunners withdrew to a near-by alternate 
position from which they still could 
cover their assigned target area. Taking 
advantage of the darkness, the Germans 
about the same time infiltrated into the 
east portion of the church and opened 
fire with burp guns on the 3d Platoon 
men in the other side of the church. One 
engineer was killed, the others withdrew, 
and the much-disputed church once again 
changed hands. 30 

Southeast of Vossenack at the entrance 
of the Kail trail into the woods, Com- 
pany B, 1340th Engineers, and Com- 
pany A, 20th Engineers (now reduced to 
about thirty officers and men), were har- 
assed throughout the night by enemy 
artillery fire pounding on the ridge behind 
them. Because the shelling centered ap- 
proximately a hundred yards away, the 

19 Combat Intcrv 75 with Isley, Baker-Ball. 
!0 Combat Interv 75 with Meier; Meier Acct. 



366 



THREE BATTLES 



engineers had few casualties. Two ma- 
chine gun outposts were established along 
the Kail trail between the woods and 
Vossenack. 

Back in Vossenack Colonel Isley 
planned a meeting for 0530 to co-ordi- 
nate for an early morning attack (0730) 
designed to retake the eastern half of 
the town. The tank officer who was to 
relieve Lieutenant Quarrie did not arrive 
at the command post until 0645, and the 
original attack hour was therefore de- 
layed until 0800. 31 

Medics and Engineers Along the Kail 

Because the Kali River supply route 
remained mined and insecure during the 
daylight hours of 6 November, the com- 
bined lst-3d Battalion, 112th Infantry, 
aid station in the log dugout beside the 
trail made no use of vehicles for evacua- 
tion. Several groups of walking wounded 
did make their way along a wooded cross- 
country route that led around the south 
of Vossenack ridge up the draw to 
Richelskaul. 32 

T/4 Krieder, the engineer in charge of 
the security guard at the Kali bridge, had 
no further contact with American troops 
after the 3d Battalion, 110th Infantry 
(infantry element of Task Force R), 
crossed the bridge about 0815. Moving 
back up the hill to report to their com- 
pany commander, Krieder and his men 
came across five men from the 707th 
Tank Battalion who had remained with 
their disabled tanks through the enemy 
patrol action the night before. One 
tanker, Sergeant Markey, whose immo- 



bilized tank had necessitated use of the 
complicated switchback west of the Kali, 
said he had remained inside his tank and 
could hear the Germans knocking on the 
tank and talking. They had made no 
effort to look inside. 

When Krieder's group reached the exit 
of the main supply route from the woods, 
it found no trace of its company (Com- 
pany A, 20th Engineers), which had by 
this time obeyed Colonel Sonnefield's 
orders to withdraw. Since heavy shell- 
fire was falling over the route they would 
have to follow to get back to Germeter, 
the men took cover in abandoned fox- 
holes along the woods line. They made 
contact with their company in the after- 
noon when it returned to its positions. 
Despite a general belief that the Kali 
trail was in German hands through the 
day of 6 November, T/4 Krieder made 
no mention of having seen any Germans 
after daylight. 33 

That afternoon when the men of Cap- 
tain Lind's Company C, 1340th Engi- 
neers, moved toward the Kali bridge, 
they made no enemy contact. By 1830 
they had established their defense near 
the bridge: the 3d Platoon and one squad 
of the 1st across the bridge on the river's 
east bank; the 2d Platoon on the west 
bank along the Kail trail; the remain- 
ing two squads of the 1st Platoon on the 
west bank facing south and southwest. 



S1 Combat Interv 75 with Creegan, Doherty, Isley; 
Ltr, Col Daley to Hist Div. 

S! Muglia Rpt; Morrison Rpt; Ltr, Maj Berndt to 
Hist Div. 



{Map 28) Five men reconnoitered the 
Mestrenger Muehle east of the river and 
found it unoccupied. 

At dusk the company commander, 
Captain Lind, sent two mine detector 
crews with several men as security to 
sweep the trail leading from the bridge 



S! Combat Interv 75 with Krieder; Combat Interv 
76 with Hostrup-Fleig-Payne. 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



367 



back toward Vossenack. About 200 
yards above the bridge, between the 
bridge and the infantry aid station, the 
men spotted four to six Teller mines 
which had evidently been laid hastily 
in the mud of the trail. Before they 
could remove the mines, a burp gun from 
the right flank opened fire. Although 
it was fast growing dark and the men 



could not spot the enemy gunner, Cpl. 
Thomas W. Hamlett, in charge of the 
detector crews, shot a full clip from his 
rifle into the undergrowth, and the Ger- 
man did not fire again. The company 
executive officer, 1 st Lt. Lumir T. Makou- 
sky, directed the detector crews to move 
back to their platoons and told Corporal 
Hamlett to establish an outpost at the 
intersection of the Kail trail and the 
north-south river road. 



It was well after dark before any enemy 
artillery fire hit the engineers' bridge 
positions. Later, about 2330, a particu- 
larly heavy concentration showered the 
area. Close on its heels came a group 
of about twenty-five Germans, following 
the artillery so closely that they were 
almost atop the 2d Platoon position on 
the west bank when the shelling lifted. 
They opened fire with burp guns, ma- 
chine guns, and grenades, killing the 
squad leader of the 1st Squad and wound- 
ing the 1st Platoon leader and Corporal 
Hamlett. 

The engineers' return fire seemed to 
disrupt the patrol's attack, although in- 
dividual Germans continued down the 
river road toward the southwest. The 
intense preliminary shelling had caused 
the heaviest American casualties. Some 
of the engineers left their foxholes during 
the fire fight and retreated up the hill 
toward the positions of Company A, 20th 
Engineers. Nevertheless, the enemy at- 
tack was stopped, and next morning the 
remaining engineers counted nine dead 
Germans. 

The enemy continued to harass the 
Company C, 1340th, engineers at the 
bridge the rest of the night with artillery 
and mortar fire. Counting its heavy 
casualties of the night and the number 
who had retreated during and after the 
patrol action, the company found itself 
reduced to about half its original strength 
the next morning. 34 

While the engineers suffered no more 
direct attacks during the night, other 
Germans were in the area. An enemy 
squad stopped at the log aid station, in- 
quired about the type of installation, and 
then offered rations or any supplies that 

34 Combat Interv 75 with MaWousky, Cipra; 
Setliffe Rpt. 




368 



THREE BATTLES 



might be needed. As long as there were 
no firearms around, the Germans said, 
they would not fire upon the aid sta- 
tion. 35 

Supplies Cross the Kali 

In the rear the assistant S-3 of the 
110th Infantry, Capt. George H. Rum- 
baugh, was called into his regiment's 
operations room about 1930. Word had 
been received there that both Colonel 
Tait, commander of the 3d Battalion, 
110th Infantry, which had become a part 
of Task Force R, and Maj. Robert C. 
Reynolds, executive officer, had been 
wounded. Since the extent of their in- 
juries was not known, Captain Rum- 
baugh was to go to the 3d Battalion near 
Kommerscheidt, taking with him two 
weasels loaded with water, food, and 
medical supplies. If he found both offi- 
cers seriously wounded, he was to assume 
command of the 3d Battalion. 

As Captain Rumbaugh readied his 
jeep and two weasels for the trip, he 
learned that five weasels and one jeep 
from the 112th Infantry were going for- 
ward under the command of 1st Lt. 
Robert W. Pratt. The two groups con- 
solidated and moved out about 2300. 
In Vossenack and on the open ridge 
southeast of the town, the supply column 
received some harassing small arms fire 
but continued, although two of the wea- 
sels overturned in a sharp gully on the 
dark ridge and a third threw a track. 
The remainder of the column (two jeeps 
and four weasels) entered the valley 
portion of the trail, only to be delayed 
after entering the woods by felled trees 
of varying sizes, all of which had to be 



Morrison Rpt. 



pushed or pulled out of the way before 
the column could proceed. 

As the column paused in the vicinity 
of the aid station, Captain Rumbaugh 
thought he heard guttural voices farther 
down in the draw. Flattening themselves 
under their vehicles, the men could see 
two figures silhouetted against the abrupt 
drop to the left. When Captain Rum- 
baugh challenged, one of the figures 
tossed a hand grenade up the slope. The 
convoy personnel answered with fire from 
their individual weapons, and Captain 
Rumbaugh tossed a grenade, ending the 
trouble. Four dead Germans were later 
found near the location. 

The party lost a jeep and trailer some- 
where along the route, but finally crossed 
the river about 0200. Beyond the Kail 
the column was delayed about an hour 
by a large fallen tree which had to be 
removed with hand power, ropes, and 
axes. Still later, another weasel threw 
a track attempting to bypass three tanks 
of Company A, 707th Tank Battalion, 
which had withdrawn to the woods after 
their turrets had been damaged during 
the day by enemy artillery fire in Kom- 
merscheidt. 

Captain Rumbaugh eventually reached 
the 1 1 2th Infantry forward command 
post, which had moved into the northern 
edge of Kommerscheidt, with just three 
weasels and his own jeep — all that re- 
mained out of the original nine-vehicle 
convoy. The time was about 0300 
(7 November). In Kommerscheidt Rum- 
baugh found that Colonel Tait had al- 
ready been evacuated to the combined 
aid station in the Kali gorge and that 
Major Reynolds had wounds in his right 
hand and chest and was in no condition 
to continue his duties. Major Reynolds 
was placed in one of the weasels to be 



OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT 



369 



returned to the rear, and Rumbaugh 
assumed command of the 3d Battalion, 
110th Infantry. 

Lieutenant George, motor officer of 
the 3d Battalion, 112th Infantry, who had 
led a supply convoy to Kommerscheidt 
the night before and had not yet left the 
town, took command of Lieutenant 
Pratt's three empty weasels, adding them 
to his two two-and-one-half-ton trucks, 
jeep, and two weasels. The column 
moved out about 0400 (7 November), 
carrying as many wounded as possible 
on what was to be Kommerscheidt's last 
casualty evacuation by vehicle, 36 

The jeep driver was killed by artillery 
fire soon after leaving Kommerscheidt, 
but the remainder of the column con- 
tinued. Despite darkness, intermittent 
shelling, and a driving rain, the convoy 
snaked its way past the east bank switch- 
backs, across the bridge, and up the 
precipitous west bank trail. Approxi- 
mately a hundred yards from the western 
edge of the Kail woods, the big trucks 
had to be abandoned because a heavy 
tree blocked the road. The wounded 
were transferred from the trucks to the 
weasels. On reaching the edge of the 
woods, the column discovered that a 
group of Germans had dug in on the 
open ridge to the right (slightly south of 
east from Vossenack). Lieutenant George 
saw only one way out. With the wound- 
ed instructed to "fire like hell" in the 
direction of the Germans, the vehicles 
gunned their motors and raced across 
the slippery open ridge, avoiding Vosse- 
nack itself by following the ridge south 
of the town all the way to Richelskaul. 37 



36 Combat Interv 77 with Rumbaugh-Joyce; Com- 
bat Interv 76 with Hostrup-Fleig-Payne, Ripple; 
Combat Interv 75 with George; Setliffe Rpt. 

37 Combat Interv 75 with George; Berndt Rpt. 



Artillery and Air Support 

American artillery fire during 6 No- 
vember was credited with breaking up at 
least one German attack against Kom- 
merscheidt and assisting the Vossenack 
defense by firing numerous concentra- 
tions in the woods to the north and north- 
east of the town after withdrawal of the 
2d Battalion, 112th Infantry. Despite 
an ammunition shortage, the 229th fired 
a total of 3,949 rounds, but counter- 
battery fire was reduced critically. 38 

Adverse weather again hampered air- 
craft on 6 November, and the day's first 
mission did not reach the target area 
until noon. Twelve P-47's of the 365th 
Group bombed reported armored vehicles 
just northwest of Harscheidt as marked 
by red smoke from American artillery. 
Results were not observed. Another 
squadron of the 365th bombed smoke- 
marked tanks in Schmidt from 1310 to 
1430, and still another squadron of the 
same group took up the Schmidt attack 
at 1425 and continued until 1520. No 
results of either mission were observed. 
Thirty-six P-38's of the 474th Group 
bombed smoke-marked troop concentra- 
tions in the northwestern edge of Berg- 
stein and in the Brandenberger Wald, 
north of Brandenberg. The last recorded 
mission of the day, completed at 1627 and 
also with no results observed, was by 
twelve P-47's of the 365th Group which 
bombed camouflaged tanks in the edge 
of the woods nor